Date and Almond Thumbprint Cookies

Almond flour is magic. I promise you. It makes everything better. It adds a subtle sweetness, nuttiness, creaminess, moistness and most importantly, deliciousness to every recipe. And it does just that and more in these cookies!
I started off just wanting to make regular thumbprint cookies, which are generally filled with jam and sometimes topped with a simple icing. However, I wasn't really feeling the jam vibe. It then occurred to me - dates were the solution! All I had to do was make a simple date paste and fill the thumbprints with it. I'm so glad I went with it!

By all means, feel free to use your favorite jam or even some really good applesauce or lemon curd. But for me, the dates won. I may be (very!) biased when I say that the dates work perfectly with the textures and flavors in these cookies, because my family and I are all date-crazy. We've been eating them for as long as I can remember, and if anything, we love them more and more every day. 
Thanks to the almond flour, these cookies require barely any oil and thanks to the sweet, gooey date filling, they need minimal added sweetness. These cookies are slightly crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside, gooey in the center and crunchy on top. What more do you want? To top it off, when these are baking (and when they're just sitting in your cookie jar/box), they give off the most amazing aroma from the almond extract.

The ingredient list is so simple, and the instructions are just as easy. That said, one thing is even simpler: eating a freshly baked cookie! Or two...or three. They're bite-sized perfection, and their small size means you can eat two or three of these without feeling guilty. Not that these are guilt-inducing cookies anyways. I mean, just take a look at the ingredient list!
Makes 20 small cookies
For the cookie base:
1 1/2 cup almond flour
2 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp almond extract
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup plain flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt

For the filling and topping:
6 dates (feel free to substitute with 1/3 cup of your favorite jam)
1 tbsp thinly sliced almonds
granulated sugar, for sprinkling

Soak the dates in hot water and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, mix the almond flour and coconut oil together. Add the maple syrup, beaten egg and almond extract and mix again.

In a medium bowl, stir together the remaining dry ingredients - cinnamon, flour, baking soda, and salt.

Incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet almond mixture and mix until just combined. Chill the dough in the fridge for 30-40 minutes.

In the meantime, prepare the date filling and preheat the oven to 175 C.

Removed the dates from the soaking water and place in a small saucepan over medium heat. Once the dates are very soft and mushy, use a fork to mash them. Turn the heat down to low and cook for another 2-3 minutes until dried slightly. Turn off the heat and set aside.

Line a cooking baking sheet with baking paper.

Once the dough has chilled, remove from the fridge. Roll the dough into small balls. Flatten slightly and place on the baking sheet.

With your thumb (I used my knuckle!) make a small "thumbprint" (indentation) in the center of each cookie. Fill each cookie with a small amount of the date mixture. Finally, top each cookie with a sprinkling of sliced almonds and granulated sugar.

Bake for 15-18 minutes or until edges are slightly crisp and golden brown but center is still soft. Cool on the sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

Taste test a couple to make sure they're delish!



Double Chocolate Zucchini Loaf

If you read my last post, then you'd have known this was coming. And it's coming with force! This is double-the-trouble, double-chocolate and double-the-yumminess. Not only is the batter chocolate-y, but its loaded with chocolate chips, taking this to the next level.

Baking this wonderful loaf satisfied several purposes: 1) my desire to bake, 2) my chocolate cravings and 3) our quest to use up all my summer zucchini.

The base batter is very similar to that of my zucchini coconut loaf, but with an extra egg added in and the cocoa powder to make it chocolate-y, of course. It satiates all chocolate cravings, is perfectly sweet, yet healthy enough for breakfast. Before I continue, just look at those chocolate chips! Mmm... I bet you're drooling already. 
Unlike in the last recipe, I peeled the zucchini for this one, as I wasn't sure I wanted to see the stark green shreds when eating a slice of chocolate bread. On retrospect, I may not have minded it as it adds an extra element of flair to a standard chocolate loaf, which this is not! I leave this decision up to you!

I just had one more dilemma. Every time I pulled this loaf out of the fridge, I cut a slice, and then stopped. I simply couldn't decide whether I liked this warmed up slightly, so the cake became soft and chocolate chips all gooey or whether I liked it cold and almost fudgy. Such a hard decision!

1 1/2 cup plain flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
2/3 cup raw sugar
2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup non-fat greek yogurt
1 1/2 cup peeled and grated zucchini, with liquid squeezed out
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 170 C. Line a loaf baking pan with baking paper and set aside.

Sift flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt together in a large mixing bowl. Mix to combine.

In a separate medium-sized mixing bowl, beat sugar and oil together. Add in the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and yogurt. Mix in the zucchini with a large spoon.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix with a large spoon or spatula, until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean (disregarding the chocolate chips as they are bound to be melty!).

Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then move to a wire rack to cool completely. Cut into (thick!) slices and enjoy!


Delicious Zucchini Coconut Loaf Cake

Last weekend we headed to a pick-your-own farm and went strawberry picking! Or at least that's what we thought we were going to do. We bought £25 worth of strawberries, which lasted us exactly a week. They were absolutely fresh, juicy, sweet and scrumptious. But that's not all. We also ended up picking up raspberries, blackberries, green beans, zucchinis and spinach.

We (read: my mom!) went a little bit crazy and were too enthused by all the fresh produce that we picked up ten zucchinis, only to come home and realize that we already had three wonderful, organic zucchinis lying in the fridge. So yes, that means a total of thirteen zucchinis. You'll be glad to know to know that as I'm writing this post a week later, we are down to six zucchinis. We've made zucchini fritters; pasta with spinach, ricotta, pesto and zucchini ribbons; this outstanding zucchini coconut bread and a double chocolate zucchini loaf (recipe coming next!).

If you haven't ever seen baked goods with zucchini, I have a couple of things to tell you: 1) it does not feel like you're eating a vegetable (green too!) yet gives you all the nutrition, 2) don't be scared - it works just like carrot, 3) it is delicious and adds moistness, reducing the amount of butter or oil required in a recipe!
This zucchini bread, with the bite of the oats, crunch and flavor of the coconut, and perfect caramel sweetness from the little bit of brown sugar - it's to die for! I loved this for breakfast paired with some fruit and my homemade almond milk!
It is the perfect way to use up all the summer zucchini, but also so amazing that it's worth buying some zucchini for it! It's easy to throw together and even easier to eat!

I absolutely love seeing the specks of green spread throughout the loaf, but if you'd rather not see that green, feel free to peel the zucchini. Trust me though, the green looks gorgeous - just look at it!

3/4 cup plain flour
1/4 cup baby oats
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
pinch of salt
1/2 cup raw sugar
2 tbsp soft brown sugar
2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup nonfat greek yogurt, at room temperature
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups shredded zucchini, with liquid squeezed out
3/4 cup desiccated coconut
coconut flakes, for sprinkling (optional)

Preheat the oven to 170 C. Line a loaf pan with baking paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, stir together the flours, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.

In a separate medium bowl, beat the egg, sugar and coconut oil together. Add in the yogurt and vanilla extract and beat again. Mix in the shredded zucchini.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until just combined. Finally, stir in the shredded coconut.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50-60 minutes or until golden brown on top and when a toothpick inserted comes out clean. If using the coconut flakes, pull the bread out of the oven at 30 minutes and sprinkle on top, working quickly. Place back in the oven for the additional 20-30 minutes.

Let the bread cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes, then cool on a wire rack before slicing.



Banana Pecan Shortbread Cookies

Now, before you get too excited... Actually, no. You should be excited. These cookies are de-lish-ous! But in all seriousness, these aren't your classic Scottish shortbreads that are super light and crumbly. These are more dense, crispy yet tender, sweet cookies studded with pecans that get all toasty and fragrant as the cookies bake.

The subtle coconut-y flavor from the coconut oil and the slight banana-y infusion from the banana only serve to enhance these delicious cookies. And apart from coconut oil and banana, there are only five more ingredients! Simple as that. Seven ingredients, minimal effort, and delicious cookies. Just look at them....

It being summer right now, these are perfect as they are sturdy enough to carry to picnics in the park! There are also super easy to make, so they make the perfect gift! I can just imagine a stack of these cookies tied up in a beautiful ribbon. The gift-receiver is bound to love you, though they probably do already!

These are seriously delectable, made with the simplest of ingredients and an even simple method. Get baking!

1/2 cup + 1 tbsp coconut oil
1/3 cup riped banana, mashed
2 1/2 cups plain flour
2/3 cup raw sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1/3 cup pecans, chopped

Cream together the oil and sugar. Add in the mashed banana and cream again.

Add vanilla and salt and blend again.

Sift in the flour and blend until combined.

Stir in the chopped pecans.

Transfer to baking paper and roll the dough into a tight log around 2-3 inches wide. Place the log in the freezer for 30 minutes to harden. At this point, preheat the oven to 175 C.

Once the dough has chilled, unroll the paper and slice the log into discs around 1 cm wide. If it's too hard to slice, leave it out for a few minutes and try again. If too soft, place back in the freezer for a bit longer.

Place on the baking sheet (close together is ok as these don't spread much - not touching though!). Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Your house will smell heavenly at this stage!

Let the cookies cool on a wire rack to crisp up slightly.

Grab a cold glass of milk, your favorite mug of tea or coffee, a couple of these cookies and enjoy!