Random containers of cookie-butter or jars of chile sauce often find their way into my cart when I shop at the much beloved Trader Joe’s. The number and variety of options thrown at consumers when perusing the isles of a grocery store can be overwhelming and it becomes easy to purchase exotic and complicated pre-fab ingredients. In order to keep my pantry from becoming too cluttered and my grocery bill from diminishing my bank account, I try to keep these kinds of purchases to a minimum–remembering one of my mom’s sayings–“Keep it simple” (the kis(s) formula).
I’ve recently recalled this saying when looking at recipes. I like to try new baking techniques and recipes but the idea of an oreo stuffed in a cookie, topped with icing and rainbow jimmies is just too much sometimes. And I remember: keep it simple. I decided on an uncomplicated cookie made with slightly unconventional ingredients–although almond meal is now trendy and coconut oil is becoming the norm. These cookies do not possess the traditional crunch that cookies made with flour containing gluten have, but they are a satisfyingly chewy, sweet treat.
While simplifying my baking and overall diet, I am also seeking to expand the nutritional content of the food that I eat. Packed with almond meal, these cookies are also a source of Vitamin E. Almonds are rich in Vitamin E, a fat-soluble vitamin that elicit anti-oxidant effects in the body. Because Vitamin E is fat soluble, it can integrate into cell membranes. In this role, Vitamin E protects cell membranes from reacting with lipid radicals and thus prevents oxidation of the membranes.
Many foods and chemicals described in health blogs or medical journals are touted as having antioxidant effects–warding off DNA damage and the eventual formation of cancerous lesions. The antioxidant properties are perhaps the most commonly known characteristic of Vitamin E, but there certainly exist other pathways through which this molecule acts. Vitamin E is known to regulate the expression of CTGF (connective tissue growth factor), which increases synthesis of ECM (extracellular matrix). In contributing to the control of this gene, Vitamin E can help repair wounds and alleviate tissue damage in diseases such as atherosclerosis. It’s mind blowing that a compound found in the food I’m eating functions to repair tissue in my body by regulation of a target gene–CTGF in this case. But this is simply how the body works and it’s why I’m so interested in putting healthy foods into mine. (End science rant.)
Now for the recipe!
Chocolate Chip – Almond – Coconut Cookies (Vegan/GF)
1 1/4 cups almond meal
1/4 cup bittersweet chocolate — chopped
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg
3 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
In a medium sized bowl, mix together the almond meal, chocolate, coconut, baking powder, salt and brown sugar. Melt the coconut oil in the microwave and allow it to cool slightly. Crack the egg into a separate bowl and whisk until the egg doubles in volume. Add in the cooled coconut oil (You don’t want to cook the eggs so make sure that the oil is no longer hot!) and vanilla extract to your egg. Pour the egg mixture over the dry ingredients and mix just until the dough comes together. Cover the dough with saran wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or overnight. (I opted for overnight.)
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and scoop out cookie dough into 1 inch balls. Place cookies about 2 inches apart on the baking sheet. Press down on each ball of cookie dough to flatten slightly and bake for 7-10 minutes (the edges should be slightly browned when the cookies are done). Allow the cookies to cool on the sheet–then enjoy!
Recipe adapted from The Sprouted Kitchen cookbook