Sometimes people help you out without knowing they’re doing it. Just in the course of doing what they like to do, they bless you with a surprise that helps or heals you, unaware they have done so. Rachel Naomi Remen retells a Sufi story in her beautiful book Kitchen Table Wisdom about just such a gift. It goes something like this: a very good man, when pressed by angels to receive the gift of miracles, asked only that he be able to do a great deal of good without ever knowing it. The angels were perplexed at first, but took counsel among themselves and figured out a way to make this happen. As a result, this man did good as naturally as the stars give light or flowers give scent, without ever knowing it. Out of respect, people followed him silently, never speaking to him of his miracles. Instead they called him “The Holy Shadow.”
Dr. Remen wisely tells us that it’s comforting to realize we may be doing good without ever knowing it. I agree. Nevertheless, I love to tell on people when they do good in my life. I’m betting the wonderful young mother who writes Kid Tested Fire Fighter Approved blog had no idea the joyous impact she would have on me when she came up with her “Carrot Oatmeal Breakfast ‘Cookies’” so her toddlers would have something cookie-like in their lunch boxes. But from the inspiration of her post, a new luscious grown-up, gluten-free, soy-free, nearly-fat-free cookie was born. The kind I can sink my teeth into without worry I’ll be paying for it later. And even half of one fills me up.
I have always loved cookies. My first favorites were what my Mom called “Lucille’s Cookies,” for the nurse who came to help with her recovery after complications from the birth of my sister. She made them for us when I was just 4. They were a version of chocolate chip cookies many of you may recognize, made with corn flakes, coconut, chocolate chips, and, of all things, maraschino cherries– full of decadent sweet chewy chunkiness. I never lost the taste or longing for such “loaded” cookies, and in my teens made a relatively “healthier” whole grain version out of an Oroweat cookbook. When I moved to Idaho, I found that the co-op made their own version here, affectionately calling them “Oaties.” They still do. I love the smell of them, but of course no longer put myself through the effect all that sugar, butter, flour, and chocolate has on my body.
So what’s a cookie-loving monster to do when the holidays come around and everything made with flour and sugar and God Knows What Else are calling with their fragrant good memories? I have a will of iron when it comes to abstinence if necessary, but this year it’s not necessary.
In what I call my typical “Mrs. Magoo” fashion, I have searched the Kid Tested Fire Fighter Approved blog to find the name of the woman who writes it. But even with my nifty new glasses, I have come up empty-eyed so far. If any of you tweeting and face booking adepts know it or find it, or know a way to e-mail her to thank her, let me know. For now I will call these cookies Holy Shadow Cookies. Because they are dark , rich and deep, like shadows. Because I can take them with me wherever I go. Because when I eat them they leave me feeling fine, a miracle in itself. And because the woman who inspired me to make them has no idea and I don’t even know her first name. But she gave me a great blessing unawares. (Come to think of it, Cathy Fisher at StraightUpFood is a bit of a Holy Shadow in this project herself. She mentioned Kid Tested Fire Fighter Approved blog to me in the context of another recipe, of course never dreaming any of this would happen. So I am grateful for her holy shadowing too!)
Carob Amaranth Holy Shadow Cookies
about 1 1/4 cups cooked amaranth, mixed with ¼ cup pear sauce and a half teaspoon of vanilla and half teaspoon of cinnamon
about 1 1/2 cups of gluten free rolled oats
1/3 cup buckwheat groats, very coarsely ground
1/3 cup carob powder
cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, cloves (hardy healthy shakes of all, I didn’t measure, just tasted)
fresh grated orange zest, about 1 ½ tsp
fresh grated ginger, about 1 tsp
¼ cup almond milk, ¼ cup pear sauce, 1 tsp vanilla, 3 drops of stevia, whisked together
3 medjool dates, pitted and chopped
1-2 tbs of softened dried fruit (dried bosc pears, cherries and/or cut up dried figs)
1 cup of grated (Anjou) pear
2 tbs of chopped walnuts
Put oats, spices, ground buckwheat groats and carob powder in a medium bowl. Add orange zest and ginger. Mix. Whisk almond milk, pear sauce, vanilla and stevia in a small bowl. Add amaranth mixture to oat mixture, and almond milk mixture to both. Mix up thoroughly with fork or wooden spoon.
Heat oven to 375. Make cookie patties (as you would with veggie burgers, the consistency is remarkably similar) and place on baking sheet lined with parchment. (Slightly wet hands with cold water so the “dough” doesn’t stick to you too much). Sprinkle tops with ground ginger. Bake for 30-45 minutes, until “set” Let cool on a rack. Enjoy. Refrigerate the ones that are left. Makes about 10 big cookies.
Notes: Holy Shadow Cookies can be varied endlessly. You can stick to the recipe that inspired them at Kid Tested even, if you want, which uses cooked oatmeal. But I recommend the cooked amaranth. It gives the cookies a rich binder and taste without flour.
How I cook amaranth: heat a small pot on medium for about 30 seconds. Add amaranth and lightly toss and toast, just until you can smell the aroma. Add twice the amount of water to the amount of amaranth. So if you cook 1/2 cup of amaranth, add a generous 1 cup of water; 1 cup of amaranth, a generous 2 cups, etc. Bring to a boil, cover, turn heat to low and cook for 15 minutes. Let sit in pot covered for a few minutes after, which helps prevent sticking.
Another favorite version I’ve made is to leave out the carob powder, sub out the pear sauce and pears for mashed banana and grated apple, and add dried cranberries and frozen blueberries for the dried fruit pieces instead of the cherries and pears. Lemon zest instead of orange. No grated ginger or ground cloves. More cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom. A teaspoon of peanut butter instead of the walnuts. Voila! Blonde Holy Shadow Cookies. You can just play with it. These proportions work pretty well, but may vary for you, depending on how moist your ingredients are, how much humidity or lack of it there is in your kitchen, etc. You can also mix up the “dough” and let it sit in the fridge until you are ready to shape your cookies.
Full disclosure: the Holy Shadow effect of KTFFA’s Carrot Oatmeal cookies took place without me ever trying that recipe verbatim. In fact, I had cooked squash, so I made the “unpumpkin oatmeal” it calls for with pumpkin, not carrots. No never mind. It was all inspiring, both the reading and the going in an opposite direction.
May we all be blessed and comforted by Holy Shadows this holiday season, even as we become them ourselves, without ever knowing it.