Lemon Basil Shortbread Cookies

Lemon Basil Shortbread Cookies | Veggie and the Beast

It’s about time we talked about basil.

Until circa 2009, I rarely bought fresh basil. I had dried basil in my cupboard, and it lasted longer than fresh, so I figured it made more sense. Then, in the summer of 2009 my then-roommate and I split a community-supported agriculture (CSA) share. In those boxes we’d get these beautiful, fresh, huge batches of basil. The best pizza I’ve ever made included local heirloom tomatoes (which I used to make both sauce and toppings), fresh mozzarella, and large leafs of local basil.

I’ve been hooked ever since.

Lemon Basil Shortbread Cookies | Veggie and the Beast

Basil is a big part of my life these days, both in the kitchen and out. Last Spring Ryan started a hydroponic farm so he could supply local co-ops with fresh produce year-round. Currently he’s mostly producing basil, which works out wonderfully if you’re me and want basil on all the things.

If you’re fortunate enough to live somewhere warm, you may think that fresh, local basil year-round is no big thang. In Minnesota, where humans barely survive the winter, finding a way to successfully grow and sustain large crops in -20 degree weather is no small feat.

I’m fortunate to know a basil guy. I have an “in” with local produce, and it’s fabulous.

Lemon Basil Shortbread Cookies | Veggie and the Beast

We regularly put Ryan’s basil (the best damn basil in town, I believe) on pizzas, in sandwiches, in pasta sauces, or blended up into pesto. To switch things up, I decided it was high time I put some basil in my cookies.

I know basil cookies may sound a bit strange to some of you, but hear me out. These cookies are buttery, light, crisp, and have a splash of lemon flavor. Although I usually feel a bit “meh” about shortbread, the lemon and basil make for one flavorful, bright little treat that just meeeeelts in your mouth.

Butter, guys. It’s all about the butter and the basil.

Lemon Basil Shortbread Cookies | Veggie and the Beast

The simple lemon glaze comes together quickly, but an even quicker option would be to just sift a little powdered sugar on top of the cooled cookies. The sprinkle of white will add a little pretty flair.

These cookies feel fancy because of their shape, luxurious texture, and the fact that they include an herb (duh). If you’re refined, maybe you’ll eat them leisurely while sipping black tea. If you’re me, maybe you’ll eat them straight from the plastic tupperware while cleaning up your stressfully-dirty kitchen.

Lemon Basil Shortbread Cookies | Veggie and the Beast

At least my cookies have class.
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Whole Grain Almond Chocolate Chip Cookies

Whole Grain Almond Chocolate Chip Cookies | Veggie and the Beast

It’s been a while since my body told me, definitively, that I need to slow down and take a breath. I finally reached that point last Wednesday.

In the midst of a comically stressful week, my body succumbed to one of the worst colds I’ve ever had. It felt as though I had been hit by the sickness bus. My head hurt, my back hurt, my body ached, my nose itched, and my sneezes were so intense that I saw my dog’s entire body jump with each expulsion, as though levitating from the energy coming from my mouth.

Every moment I spent vertically made me feel worse. My body forced me to slow down, sleep a ton, and finally watch Frozen. Totally worth all the hype, by the way.

Whole Grain Almond Chocolate Chip Cookies | Veggie and the Beast

When I felt well enough to move like a normal human, I decided to bake cookies for myself. Most of my baked goods are made with others in mind. I always know I’ll enjoy them as well, but my main thought when baking will be, “My family will love these,” or “I can bring these to work/my friend’s house” etc. This time I made cookies just for me, specifically to my tastes and food preferences. Sure, I’ve shared with friends and family when they’ve been around, but this particular batch of cookies has made its home in my little glass cake stand on my kitchen counter, and is primarily being consumed by yours truly. These cookies make me happy.

It was a small step in self nurture, which is something I’ve kind of been lacking lately. I have no qualms about making myself feel better with food. It is what it is, and it’s pretty tasty.

Whole Grain Almond Chocolate Chip Cookies | Veggie and the Beast

These cookies are made without refined flour or sugar, but they’re also made with a hefty amount of brown butter and dark chocolate. Since I’m a bit of a whole foods advocate, but also a brown butter and chocolate advocate, all of these ingredients seemed appropriate.

Whole Grain Almond Chocolate Chip Cookies | Veggie and the Beast

I used spelt flour, because I love its subtle nutty flavor, but you can definitely swap whole wheat pastry flour, or unbleached all purpose (if you’re not concerned with the “whole grain” thing). Almond meal adds moistness and a light almond flavor to the dough, while old-fashioned oats bring a bit of texture. If you don’t have sucanat (dried sugar cane) on hand, I suspect you could swap it with brown sugar, since the flavor is very similar.

These cookies are thick, chewy, and stay soft for days. I like heating them up in the microwave for 10-15 seconds before devouring, because melted chocolate chips make life better.

Whole Grain Almond Chocolate Chip Cookies | Veggie and the Beast

Take care of yourself. Make some cookies.
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Whole Wheat Coconut Oil Cutout Cookies

Coconut Oil Whole Wheat Cutout Cookies | Veggie and the Beast

I really didn’t set out to post 3 cookie recipes in a row. I wish I could say this was all part of my well-organized December Christmas blog plan, but the truth is that I just really really really like cookies, and my blog plan is determined by my tummy.

I’ve mentioned before that my family’s Christmas diet is about 90% cookies, and the other 10% is filled with various types of white bread. I guess the meat eaters also have some sort of poultry or pig, but really it’s all about the sugar and white carbs.

…so obviously I had to kind of screw that up.

Coconut Oil Whole Wheat Cutout Cookies | Veggie and the Beast
Coconut Oil Whole Wheat Cutout Cookies | Veggie and the Beast

Although our cookie spread will include the usual white-sugar, white flour, and butter-laden treats, some of our sugar cookie cutouts will be hiding healthy secrets. These guys are made with 100% whole wheat flour, no butter, and no refined sugars, yet are still soft, sweet, and cute as can be.

Especially if you use a Minnesota-shaped cookie cutter. Obviously.

Coconut Oil Whole Wheat Cutout Cookies | Veggie and the Beast

The folks at Ziggy Marley Organics were nice enough to gift me with a lovely array of products to play with, so I replaced the butter in these cookies with coconut oil. The resulting cookies don’t taste like coconut (my crazy coconut-hating sister didn’t even notice the coconut flavor), but the smooth and rich texture of the coconut oil results in a cookie that’s light in texture, yet full of moisture and healthy fats.

Coconut Oil Whole Wheat Cutout Cookies | Veggie and the Beast

Whole wheat pastry flour lends a nutty flavor, which I highlighted with a little cinnamon. Sucanat’s flavor is similar to brown sugar, but I find it’s a little sweeter, so I balanced it with a bit more salt than I’d usually use in a cookie recipe.

Coconut Oil Whole Wheat Cutout Cookies | Veggie and the Beast

I actually baked these earlier today, so this marks the FASTEST I’ve ever put up a blog post. My mom, sister, and sister-in-law came over to throw around flour, butter, and powdered sugar this afternoon. Our annual Christmas baking day is one of my favorite days of the year, because it’s just the start of the family time (and cookie time) that the holidays bring. I won’t be posting again this week, so here’s wishing you and yours a wonderful and delicious holiday!
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Maple Spice Thumbprint Cookies Two Ways

Maple Spice Thumbprints | Veggie and the Beast

So many cookies. I can’t stop. I won’t stop.

I think I ate more sugar than I did anything else this weekend. Saturday morning I tried to perfect a recipe for the cookbook, only to end up with cookies that were hard as rocks and dry as…sand? Or something else really dry? The point = gross. Later that day I completely changed the recipe and tried again. I peeked in on the cookies while baking, and they looked FABULOUS – puffy, chewy, perfect little rounds. Time played a cruel joke on me 2 minutes later when I took them out of the oven and saw completely flat, bubbly, burnt-edge blobs. Nope.

Maple Spice Thumbprints | Veggie and the Beast

Since I had spent the day eating ill-fated dough and cookies, that night I coped by making a pan of my very favorite fudge brownies. It’s a cookbook recipe that I have made 4 times already, because it’s that good. It’s healthy(ish), but it’s still a dessert, so it worked well with my sugar-themed weekend.

Sunday I woke up and finally found some recipe-testing success. I based these beauties off of my ginger cookies, but I switched up the spices a bit, swapped molasses out for maple syrup, and instead of all white sugar I used a mix of white and dark brown. They’re buttery, chewy, and would be perfect if I just left them alone, but obviously I didn’t.

Right after I took them out of the oven, I used a muddler to press little circular dents into the top of each puffy cookie. Sure, you could use your thumb considering these are “thumbprint” cookies, but maybe you’re obsessed with uniformity and can’t handle an asymmetrical dent in the top of your circular cookies because it just looks so WRONG…I wouldn’t know anything about that though, cause that’s totally crazy. Yeah.

Maple Spice Thumbprints | Veggie and the Beast

Aaaaanyway, into that dent went either Nutella and sea salt or silky melted dark chocolate. The Nutella-filled cookies could be over-the-top sweet, but the hint of sea salt results in the perfect sweet-yet-salty flavor combo. The super dark chocolate gives the sugary cookie a little bitter edge, which is great if you’re into that sort of thing. Note: I’m totally into that sort of thing.

I tried to decide which filling to present you with, I really did. I kept taking bites out of different cookies (research, you know), and eventually I ended up combining the two. Then I realized I needed to put the cookies down, step away, and let you decide which version you want to make.

Maple Spice Thumbprints | Veggie and the Beast

The Nutella won’t really firm up, but the chocolate filling will harden in an hour or so. If you bite into the dark chocolate filling before it’s set, you’ll get chocolate drizzle all up in everything. Maybe that’s your goal, but I just felt I should warn you.

After I baked these cookies I went to my parent’s house for our annual family Christmas cookie baking extravaganza and assembled Bon Bon cookies for 2 hours.

Someone hand me a salad.
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Gluten Free Coconut Almond M&M Cookies

Gluten Free Almond Coconut M&M Cookies | Veggie and the Beast

Despite my epic sweet tooth, I’m not someone who regularly buys candy. Apart from the not-so sporadic impulse buy of Justin’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups, or Trader Joe’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups (okay, I really REALLY like peanut butter cups), I usually prefer to get my sweet fix through baked goods.

My whole outlook on candy changes when holiday M&Ms come out. For about a month, I like to forget that I generally try to avoid artificial dyes, and instead go all out on the Christmas-colored treats.

Last week I went to Target to pick up some necessities (chocolate chips, vanilla extract, nail polish etc.), and somehow ended up in the holiday section. To my credit, I only left that holiday section with one item. Can you guess what it was?

Gluten Free Almond Coconut M&M Cookies | Veggie and the Beast

While these may look like just another M&M cookie, I promise that they are special. They’re gluten free, but I would argue that they’re more delicious than their gluten-ful counterparts. The almond flour, oats, and coconut pack tons of texture and flavor, while the honey, dark brown sugar, and coconut oil give them a soft, chewy interior. And then, of course, there’s the crunch and smooth, dark chocolate of the festively-colored M&Ms.

Gluten Free Almond Coconut M&M Cookies | Veggie and the Beast

I’ve only recently begun baking with almond flour, but I’ve already fallen in love with its texture and flavor. It can be a bit pricey, so I buy it from the bulk section at my co-op or Whole Foods. If your grocery store doesn’t have a bulk section, you should be able to find the Bob’s Red Mill brand in the baking aisle.

I should also add that I’ve been on a vanilla soy milk kick lately. If you’re a tea drinker, buy some Tazo Chai Tea, steep it until it’s good and strong, and then pour in some vanilla soy milk – bam, mornings are better.

Anyway, I digress. The vanilla soy milk in these cookies adds a bit of extra moisture, but I assume that almond, coconut, or dairy milk would work just as well.

Gluten Free Almond Coconut M&M Cookies | Veggie and the Beast

If you’re not an M&M fan, first off I encourage you to reconsider, but if you’d rather forego the candy, then I recommend swapping them out for dark chocolate and/or white chocolate chips.

What are you baking this holiday season?

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