Monthly Archives: January 2012

Is there an allergy test for that?

Millet-Pecan Carnival Cookies 2

Here’s how you make chocolate chip cookies: you beat the butter and sugar into a fluffy little frenzy, possibly forgetting about them both while you answer an email. You crack two eggs in, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl between each one, then swear at yourself for a) always throwing the vanilla into the baking drawer upside-down, since this time it leaked, and b) spacing out on the computer instead of blending the dry ingredients, because now you need them. You whisk flour—or flours, if you’re me, because I love the chew of chocolate chip cookies made with a mixture of bread and whole wheat pastry flours—with salt and some sort of leavening and perhaps a bit of spice, dump it all into the mixer, and stir. Then there are the add-ins—chocolate (always), oats (more often than not), dried fruit (sour cherries, please, never raisins), and toasted coconut. These are my favorite cookies.

That’s what I used to think. That’s what I thought until I morphed into one of those people who may or may not be allergic to certain things. (The horror.) That’s what I thought until today, in fact, when I decided that rather than substituting various things into my standard chocolate-chunk cookies—ground flax for the eggs, new flours for all-purpose, and the like—I need to research my standard definition of “cookie.”

I didn’t have to go much farther than Super Natural Every Day, Heidi Swanson’s newest cooking bible. I’ve liked Heidi’s recipes in the past because they’re fresh and creative, but in the last six months—yes, it’s been that long since I cut out gluten, eggs, and soy—her books have provided constant inspiration when I’m trying to find a path out of the way I used to cook (or at least from empty kitchen to warm dessert). She cooks things that are instantly familiar, even if you’ve never tasted anything remotely similar. She uses unique ingredients without making them seem like substitutions. And in my experience, every recipe works every time. Case in point: chocolate chip cookies.

Millet-Pecan Carnival Cookies batter

Heidi calls these “Carnival Cookies.” It’s fitting, given the original combination of peanuts, popcorn, and chocolate chips, but for me, the name is more about the fun. Stirring up something called a cookie without going through the normal cookie motions—for one, these don’t require a mixer, or even sugar—was somehow liberating, allergies be damned. Substituting a big handful of millet for some of the oats, and pecans for the peanuts, was easy enough, and made these safe for my father-in-law, who’s allergic to peanuts. They’ll work for my friend’s hypersensitive son. And they’ll work for me, because if I’m allergic to anything in this world, it’s a week without a great cookie.

Millet-Pecan Carnival Cookies 3

Millet-Pecan Carnival Cookies (PDF)
Changed only slightly from Heidi Swanson’s recipe for Carnival Cookies in her latest book, Super Natural Every Day (Ten Speed, 2011), these cookies are a blast. Between crunchy millet, swaths of chocolate, and little popcorn grenades, they’re far more interesting in the mouth than your average chocolate chip cookie—and appropriate for many with dietary restrictions.

Active time: 20 minutes
Makes about 24 cookies

1 1/2 cups well-mashed bananas (about 3 large)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup barely warmed (not solid) extra-virgin coconut oil
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup raw millet
1/2 cup almond meal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2/3 cup chopped toasted pecans
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups popped corn

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the bananas, vanilla, and coconut oil. Set aside. In another bowl, whisk together the oats, millet, almond meal, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until combined. Fold in the pecans, then the chocolate chips, and finally the popped corn. (It won’t look like normal cookie dough.) Shape the dough into 1-inch balls with your hands, packing the dough firmly together. Place them 2 inches apart on the baking sheets, and press each ball down a bit with the palm of your hand, so each mound of dough is about 1/2-inch tall.

Bake the cookies for 15 to 20 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through, or until the bottoms of the cookies are a deep golden brown. Allow the cookies to cool completely, directly on the baking sheets.


Filed under Cookies, egg-free, gluten-free

Now what?

Yogurt Dip with Feta and Dill 5

A friend recently referred to my recent string of cookbook projects—all of which are now finished, save the final edits—as my Irish quadruplets. She suggested that perhaps I begin participating in some form of cookbook-related birth control.

I can’t blame her. I didn’t mean to write four cookbooks in 16 months. It just happened. Eighteen months ago, I didn’t think I’d ever write one. But now, with all the major deadlines behind me (as of Saturday), sitting at home in my puffy robe as the snow spins off my neighbor’s roof in a little fit of confusion, I’m wondering just who did all that work. (It couldn’t have been me.)

And more than anything, I’m wondering who I am now, in a culinary sense. I know a lot about the Pike Place Market right now. I know a lot about myriad foods across Washington State. I know more than I ever anticipated knowing about doughnuts. And I know a lot about grilling fish, too. (That was the ghost writing project, which I never told you about.)

What I don’t know, it seems, is what food will be mine in the years to come. I’ve been gluten-, soy-, and egg-free for almost six months, and I’m just starting to figure out whether that’s helping with lupus. (Summary: I think it is.) I’ve been figuring out that in baking, using pure ground flaxseeds in place of eggs (instead of flaxseed meal) makes a huge difference. I’m figuring out my favorite version of socca, the Mediterranean chickpea pancakes I can’t seem to stop eating. I’m finding a good snack bar for after the gym.

What’s next for me? For the first time in what feels like a long, long time, I just don’t know. And I kind of love it.

Here’s a dip inspired by a bite I had last weekend at the Fancy Food Show, in San Francisco. It’s not much—just some yogurt, a flurry of feta, and the dill I’ve been meaning to use. It’s not the kind of thing that fits in a book, you’ll notice. It’s the kind of thing that fits in a little jar in the fridge, for snacking, when you’re not making food at all hours of the day. Perhaps that’s what I like about it.

Yogurt Dip with Feta and Dill 1

Yogurt Dip with Dill and Feta (PDF)
Here’s a dip that works in my house as a substitute for ranch dressing—only there are some undeniable nutritional benefits going on here. For something that tends more toward the “spread” category, add a handful of pitted kalamata olives, and whirl the whole thing in a food processor before serving.

Serve the dip with fresh carrots, cucumbers, baby zucchini, bell peppers, or crackers.

Time: 10 minutes active time
Makes: About 1 cup

7 ounces full-fat Greek-style yogurt
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
Juice of 1/2 large lemon
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl, using a fork to smash the feta into tiny pieces. Serve or chill up to 1 week.


Filed under appetizers, gluten-free, recipe, snack, vegetarian