I’ve been making some different food choices lately, leaning further than ever away from processed foods and closer to more wholesome items. The idea is that it’s not just a health kick, but the first chapter in a lifestyle change that will allow my love for food and feeding people to take a more balanced role in my life without being a “diet”, without being a poorly masked process of deprivation. In this process, I’ve made some serious reductions to sugar and almost everything that our bodies metabolize as sugar. This means that potatoes, alcohol, white rice and flour, along with my beloved honey have all become “every once in a while” foods. As you can imagine, this makes baking and desserts in general a bit of a challenge. Trouble is, I have a sweet tooth. The hard learning here is that a treat should be just that: a treat – an occasional indulgence, in which case, I will confidently have a slice of birthday cake at a party or a warm buttery piece of garlic bread alongside pasta when there is (special) occasion to do so. But between those times there are a multitude of other bites to be considered and by being more mindful of the many, I can more happily indulge in the few.
I have said before and I’ll say again: I’m not here to tell you what to eat or how to be. I’m here to share my creative and cooking journey with you (thank you for coming along), maybe teach you a thing or two and hopefully inspire you to try making your own food for the people you love. In my opinion, we live in a very confusing time for food. Buzz words and magazine-cover-guilt-trips muddle our minds with terminology (non-GMO, organic, grassfed, hand pollinated, low fat, no fat, orchard fresh, sustainable, etc.) and where the intention with these words may be to give us reassurance and confidence in what we buy, for many, I think it causes confusion and makes it feel impossible to do ‘the right thing’, whatever that is. In terms of freshness, the environment and in all likelihood flavour and quality, ideally we would all eat locally, without chemistry invading our crops and fossil fuels moving them all over the planet. But that isn’t the reality for most people. For so many of us, getting dinner on the table (or eating it straight from the pan, standing at the sink) is sometimes the best we can do. Small changes add up – doing some research on what food ‘issues’ matter to you can empower you to make decisions as a consumer and a cook that appeal to your palate and your conscience. That doesn’t mean we all need to be vegans, or free-gans, or farmers. We don’t need to design our identities around what we eat or don’t eat, but we can take the opportunity to be involved in the story of our food and consider what we eat. Sometimes that’s as simple as cutting back on the crap and doubling up on vegetables, whether or not they’re organic.
These changes have come at a good time because they are taking my cooking habits and recipe building process for a bit of a ride and forcing me to consider alternative ingredients and methods. This means more experimenting, more creativity and honestly, some really delicious results that don’t feel like alternatives. The cookies below are a prime example. I have used whole wheat flour, coconut sugar and agave syrup as the “alternatives” to improve on the nutrition of a classically chewy peanut butter cookie. You’ll see there’s still a smidgen of all purpose flour to keep the whole wheat from being too toothsome and stodgy, and as far as swapping coconut sugar (which doesn’t taste at all of coconut) and agave syrup for regular brown sugar, frankly, no one will ever notice. Crunchy peanut butter or another nut butter would be interesting changes too, if you’re feeling creative. A fistful of very dark (70%+) chocolate chunks wouldn’t hurt either.
Make them, share them, but most importantly, enjoy them.
Whole Wheat Peanut Butter Cookies
makes 18 – 3″ cookies
1¼ C natural peanut butter (smooth)
½ C butter, softened
1¼ C, divided
1 Tbsp agave syrup
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 Tbsp vanilla
1 C whole wheat flour
¼ C all purpose flour
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
Preheat the oven to 350. Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper. Do not grease.
With an electric mixer, beat the peanut butter and butter together until pale and creamy and completely mixed. Set aside 2 Tbsp of the coconut sugar. Combine the remaining coconut sugar with the agave to create a ‘brown sugar’ texture. Add this newly created ‘brown sugar’ to the peanut butter and butter mix. Beat until fully combined. Add the egg and vanilla and beat on medium until fully combined and smooth.
Sift together the dry ingredients and add them all at once to the wet ingredients in the mixer. Mix until the dough comes together. Divide the dough into 18 equal balls and roll them lightly in the reserved coconut sugar. Place them 6 to a baking sheet. Bake them one sheet at a time for 10 minutes. Be careful not to over-bake them. To check for doneness, lift the edge of one of the cookies. If it is ideally browned but not too dark, they are ready, even if the tops look a bit soft.
Remove the cookies and cool fully on a wire rack. Once cooled, keep tightly sealed at room temperature for up to 5 days.