Here’s my first attempt at making a homemade version of my favorite Girl Scout’s cookie: the Thin Mint. While these chocolate mint cookies did not turn out exactly like their inspiration (my chocolate coating was a bit too thick), they were wonderful in their own right, and gluten-free to boot.

chocolatemintwafers

Note that the original recipe containing all purpose flour states that it makes 50 cookies. Because the almond flour does make the dough stickier and it’s not super easy to work with, I opted to make fewer cookies-I ended up with 20- and they were a bit bigger than they’re probably supposed to be. If making these with all purpose flour, you can go ahead and make them smaller and thinner.

Recipe for Gluten-Free Chocolate Mint Cookies

Adapted from the recipe for Chocolate Mint Wafers in the 2009 issue of Martha Stewart Holiday Sweets

Ingredients:

1 cup almond flour, plus more for dusting
1/2 cup unsweetened organic cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
6 Tb. unsalted organic butter
1/2 cup organic sugar
1 large egg, preferably organic and free-range
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
12 oz. semisweet chocolate (or use 12 oz. dark chocolate)
1/4 tsp. pure peppermint extract
White nonpareils for decorating-optional

Directions:
Whisk together flour, cocoa, baking powder, and 1/4 tsp salt.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla, and continue mixing until well combined. With mixer on low, add flour mixture and mix until just combined. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour. (The dough can also be made a day ahead and refrigerated overnight.)

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line two baking sheets with Silpat nonstick baking mats or parchment paper. For balls of dough (equal to 1 tsp) and place on prepared sheets, 2 inches apart. Dip your fingers in almond flour and flatten balls into 1 1/2 inch rounds (about 1/4 inch thick). Bake until slightly firm to the touch, about 8-10 minutes. Remove to a rack to cool.

Combine chocolate, peppermint extract and 1/8 tsp. salt in the top of a double boiler. Heat until smooth, 2-3 minutes, and then let cool slightly.

Replace parchment on baking sheets. Holding each cookie with the tines of a fork, dip in the chocolate to coat completely. Tap fork on side of bowl to allow excess chocolate to drip off. Place on prepared sheet, and continue until all cookies are coated. Sprinkle with optional nonpareils. Refrigerate at least 1 hour (until chocolate has hardened completely) before serving.

ECC+logo+2This is my entry for Susan from Flood Blogga’s Eat Christmas Cookies Blogging Event. You can see all the great cookies entered so far at the Eat Christmas Cookies Season 3 Roundup!

I am also linking this cookie recipe to Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays!

Chocolate is one of the most universally loved and craved foods. I’m a big fan of chocolate and I bet you are, too, so let’s talk about healthy chocolate.

Cocoa beans grow on trees and have been cultivated for thousands of years. Traditionally, most of the trees were in South America, but nowadays, West Africa is also large producer. Long ago, cocoa beans were crushed and made into a drink which was not sweetened, and was often spiced with chilis. This healthy chocolate drink was a favorite of Aztec and Mayan royalty and was said to confer spiritual wisdom as well as vitality. Drinking chocolate was introduced to Europe in the 17th century and became very popular among the upper classes when mixed with sugar or honey.

Modern chocolate is quite a different product, with the cocoa beans going through extensive processing to make the familiar chocolate so many of us love. The beans are first fermented, then roasted, then ground. The components known as chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, and cocoa powder are isolated. To the chocolate liquor is added lecithin (a derivative of soy), milk, and sweeteners (often corn syrup or sugar) and the chocolate is heated (tempered) until the proper flavor is developed.

Cocoa beans are quite high in minerals, including magnesium, and many health experts believe that the intense chocolate cravings many people experience are driven by a deficiency in magnesium. Cocoa beans are also high in essential fatty acids and antioxidants. They are mildly stimulating and their consumption increases certain neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) increasing one’s overall sense of well-being.

Most holistic health experts believe that the best type of healthy chocolate is one that is marketed as 70% (or more than 70%) dark. If you are accustomed to eating milk chocolate, you may find 70% dark chocolate to be an acquired taste. I find it to be very satisfying in small amounts- perhaps just a few blocks from a whole bar. Because it still contains some sugar, dark chocolate should not be consumed in excess. Another type of healthy chocolate you might want to try is raw chocolate, which is generally sold in powder form or as “cacao (cocoa) nibs”. Nibs are the raw (unroasted) cocoa bean without the skin, and can be purchased at natural food stores and online. I find these to be extremely bitter, but an interesting addition to smoothies and healthy dessert recipe.

Raw foods experts David Wolfe and Shazzie have written a book called Naked Chocolate: The Astonishing Truth About the World’s Greatest Food
which describes the many health benefits (including its role in weight loss!) of raw chocolate. The book contains recipes for natural chocolate treats made with cocoa nibs, raw cocoa butter, nuts, coconut oil, and natural sweeteners. Yum!

This roasted beet salad with candied pecans is another great fall salad. I served this with our Thanksgiving dinner.

beet and pecan salad

I like how the sweetness of the roasted beets and pecans contrasts with the slightly bitter greens. I dressed the salad with a simple blend of olive oil and lemon juice only, but I think the next time I make this (or any salad for that matter), I’m going to try it with Amanda Hesser’s Caramelized Citrus Vinaigrette.

You only need 1/2-1 cup of the pecans for the salad, but I suggest you make the whole recipe so you’ll have some extras for snacking. My whole family loves these candied pecans- they are so, so good.

Roasted Beet Salad with Greens and Candied Pecans

Serves 8
Remember to use local/organic ingredients whenever possible...

Ingredients:

For the Pecans

2 cups pecans
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoons melted butter
1 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Ingredients for the salad:

6-8 medium-large red or golden beets
4 cups clean mesclun greens, arugula, baby spinach or any other greens
1 head red or green leaf lettuce, cleaned and chopped (to equal about 4 cups)
1/2-1 cup candied pecans
1/2 cup dried cranberries or fresh pomegranate seeds/arils-optional
1/4-1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese-optional
4 Tb. olive oil and 2 Tb. lemon juice for the dressing
Himalayan or sea salt to taste

Directions:

For the pecans:

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Spread out onto a foil or parchment-lined baking sheet and bake in a 375°F oven for 10 minutes. Toss and bake for 5-10 minutes more. Store what you don't use in the salad in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.

For the salad:

Scrub beets and wrap in foil. Place in a 375°F oven and roast for 1 hour. Remove from heat and allow to cool, then slice. Mix with the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl and toss well. Serves 8.