I hate to admit it, but this (er, last) year I could not get into the Christmas spirit until about 10pm last Saturday night. Between all the craziness I’ve already been dealing with this year both healthwise and financially, providing what’s essentially hospice care for my sweet kitty, Hana, and adjusting to the new schedule of my new job (it’s hard going from diurnal to nocturnal when you’re no longer a young whipper snapper, lol), I completely forgot to feel festive.
It’s sad, really. Usually, once Thanksgiving is over, I’m in hyper-Christmas mode, donning Santa hats and jingle bell rings whenever I get the chance, and busting out the holiday decorations by no later than December 1st. But life seriously kicked my ass in 2012, and if it hadn’t been because of all the Christmas parties going on at work, and the fact that my mom was coming to rest after her post-surgery return to work, I would have been blindsided by Christmas.
Fortunately, it all worked out. At the restaurant we finished an absolutely jam-packed week that left us all exhausted, so it was nice to spend some quiet time at home with my mom. Those of you who’ve been following the blog for awhile know that when she and I hang out, cooking and baking are always involved, so naturally we took advantage of our days off to get some of that done.
While she set about whipping up some incredible piña colada cupcake concoction (it’s okay to be jealous… I’m jealous of myself and all the treats I get whenever she comes over), I decided finally to add another notch in my baking-with-quinoa belt by making quinoa cookies. Not quinoa-only, per se, as I’m still working on a recipe that pleases me in that respect, but something just as awesome: a chunky but moist cookie, mild in its sweetness but simply exploding with fun textures.
The goal wasn’t to make a holiday cookie – really, all I wanted to do was bake to take the chill out of the air and the stress out of my hear. But because of the seasonal favorites of cranberries and nuts, and the added festive look of the red quinoa, these worked out nicely for our holiday dessert spread. But these are definitely year-round cookies, so don’t feel like you have to bookmark these for this new year’s holiday baking frenzy. Like my strawberry-banana quinoa muffins, I have the feeling these are going to be on heavy rotation for me as pre- or during-work snacks.
Though the title might suggest that this is a rather involved recipe, its deceptively simple to make, especially if you’re like me and are used to cooking up decent sized batches of quinoa to have on hand. My plan was to work on a new savory red quinoa recipe for the new year, but quinoa is a funny thing once it cooks, yielding far more than you needed for the recipe in mind. This is one of the biggest reasons I harp about quinoa as a PGEW Bare Bones staple – like pasta and rice, the finished product it yields makes this ancient grain a sound culinary investment. The fact that it also packs an awesome nutritional punch makes it an even better choice, with its range and versatility making this one of the most valuable ingredients around (in my kitchen, at least).
But back to the cookies…
Using whatever chunky, chewy and crunchy things I had on hand, I whipped these together fairly quickly, despite the elbow grease expended on the actual mixing, now that one of my mixer’s attachments has walked away from my kitchen (where the heck is that thing?). Even with the added arm workout, prep time for these only came out to about 10-12 minutes tops, which is an added bonus. Baking can be so much fun, but I feel like I can only enjoy it when I have a full day of nothing else to do, so it’s a rare joy to find one I can put together in less than an hour.
I used cranberries and pistachios in my cookies because A) I love that combination, and B) that’s all I had on hand, but I know these would be amazing with almonds or pecans instead. The dough itself is very mild in flavor, so you don’t have to worry about these being overly sweet. With the rolled oats and the fun pop! of the quinoa, if you’re a fan of textures like I am, this is definitely the cookie for you!
Now, because these have relatively pricey ingredients like pistachios, cranberries and quinoa, they’re not as uber-cheap as, say, a sugar cookie recipe. But that doesn’t mean this has to be a $15 recipe. Paying attention to and using what you have on hand, and using some of those ingredients wisely (like splitting batches of cooked quinoa into different recipes) can help keep those costs down. You might not have cranberries but maybe you do have raisins, so you can use those instead. No nuts? No problem? They’re not an absolute requirement, and you’ll still have plenty of fun texture to play with without them. With a recipe like this, it’s okay to goof around with the additions; as long as your basic cookie dough recipe is measured out properly, you can take liberties with those add-ons.
How else can you keep a cookie recipe with so many healthy, happy things so affordable? Keep an eye on those Bare Bones staples! As I delve further into the world of baking, I realize those little guys don’t only come in handy for regular meals, but for fun baking projects, too. A silly “discovery” really, because it’s not like I didn’t already know this. But when you’re not used to baking regularly, a lot of those ingredients seem to fade into the background until they’re actually needed.
It’s been worth taking a closer look at them, though… Those oats don’t have to suffer through another life sentence of breakfast-dom; that quinoa can turn into almost anything from what I can gather; and all that dried fruit that usually goes into salads or pilafs when I”m the one doing the cooking? It can actually go into something fun like a batch of cookies! Who knew, eh? ; ) Think outside the box, repurpose the familiar, and you’ll be amazed at what kind of kitchen magic you can conjure up.
Have fun with this one, folks! And if you end up using different fruit & nut combos for your cookies, let me know what you come up with in the comments below! I have the feeling these will be just as versatile as those sweet little muffins. : )
Cranberry-Pistachio Oatmeal-Quinoa Cookies (makes approx. 2 dozen cookies; average cost per dozen: $2.50)
1 1/2 cups flour (whole wheat or whole wheat white are okay)
1 t salt
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1/4 cup raw sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar (packed)
2 T honey
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup cooked quinoa (red or white is fine)
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped pistachios
1. Preheat oven to 375°. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat and set aside. In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder, and stir well. Set aside.
2. In a separate, larger bowl, combine the butter, sugars, vanilla extract and honey. Using a wooden spoon and some serious elbow grease, beat the hell out of them until they know who’s boss* (or until creamy). Add the eggs and whip together until light & fluffy (about 2 minutes).
3. Add the flour to the butter/sugar mixture about 1/2 cup at a time, mixing well between batches. Next, mix in the oats, followed by the cranberries and pistachios. Lastly, fold in the cooked quinoa gently, making sure all ingredients are evenly distributed in the dough.
4. Spoon 2-tablespoon sized portions of dough onto your cookie sheet, about 1″ apart. Bake for 14-17 minutes until golden brown, then allow to cool on a wire rack. Grab a couple of cookies and a glass of milk, and enjoy!