Holy Shadow Cookies

by Maria Theresa Maggi on December 15, 2012

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!)

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.



Leave a Comment

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Donna December 15, 2012 at 3:05 pm

These are beautiful! I must make them. Love that they can be made with different kinds of fruits.


2 moonwatcher December 15, 2012 at 4:26 pm

Thank you, Donna! Let me know if you tried them out.



3 Debbie December 15, 2012 at 7:50 pm

Those cookies do sound good! I believe the blogger at Kid Tested Firefighter Approved is named April — in her blog comment responses she’s aprilcmast. I couldn’t find an email address either, but it appears she’s pretty good about reading and responding to comments, you could probably reach her that way.


4 moonwatcher December 15, 2012 at 8:49 pm

Thanks, Debbie! I may try that. I am technically terrible at leaving comments. I usually get stuck in some kind of virtual revolving door , which is why I hardly ever do it, except on this site, thanks to Susan’s patient tutorials. But maybe I’ll get lucky enough to figure it out. 🙂



5 Diana December 15, 2012 at 9:58 pm

Hi Maria. I really haven’t heard of amaranth so I don’t know where I can purchase this. Is there a substitute for this? I have no gluten allergies. Also, what can I substitute for the buckwheat groats and can I use the brown sugar instead of stevia? Also how much can I use, if brown sugar is possible? Thanks!


6 moonwatcher December 15, 2012 at 10:13 pm

Hi Diana,

Bob’s Red Mill sells amaranth in packages. But if you can’t find amaranth or don’t want to try it, you can use cooked oats mixed with something sweet, like cooked pumpkin, or applesauce, added in, along with the vanilla and spices, as I suggest with the amaranth. If you don’t have a gluten allergy, try using wheat flour, or ground barley, or some ground oats. And sure, you can use brown sugar. I would try half a cup. The sugar will also help hold the cookies together, as the amaranth does. The amaranth is actually a little tiny seed, so it gives the cookies a unique flavor and richness that you can’t duplicate exactly without it. So if you’re feeling adventurous and can find it, I hope you’ll give it a try.



7 Carol December 16, 2012 at 7:28 am

Maria, these sound delicious – I must try them! I absolutely love the image of holy shadows. Thank you for sharing so much yourself in this lovely blog.

Please tell me where to get pear sauce – do you blenderize pears to make it?


8 moonwatcher December 16, 2012 at 8:35 am

Hi Carol!

Thank you! I am so glad the cookies–and the image of holy shadows–appeal to you. You are very welcome.

I have a pear tree in my yard, so I make pear sauce, like people make applesauce, and can it. I use a time honored recipe for that out of the Ball canning cook, that is just the pears, no sugar. But you can make some easily without canning, by cutting up pears and cooking them, then running it through a food mill or your food processor for a smoother consistency. Peel if you want, but I don’t. Another very quick easy fine way would just be to whir up a chopped, sweet, ripe pear in the food processor or blender. Voila! Pear sauce. Let the consistency and condition of the peel be your guide on whether to leave it in or not.

So glad you want to try the cookies. Let me know how your experimenting goes.



9 Michelle December 16, 2012 at 2:10 pm

Hey Moonwatcher, er, I mean Maria –

It all looks so good and the tips like pear applesauce – well, I never would have thought of that at all. I miss you posting over on that other site – but I am so glad you have this huge audience to share your knowledge with. Not to mention the beautiful asides like the “Holy Shadow” – how wonderful that thought is to hold 🙂



10 moonwatcher December 16, 2012 at 3:50 pm

Dear Michelle,

Thank you so much for reading here and for your lovely comments. Glad you liked the tip about pear applesauce, and, of course, so glad the beautiful story I passed on about the Holy Shadow spoke to you. It’s so good to have you along here, truly. Hope you will read along as you can.


Maria (moonwatcher) 🙂


11 Carol December 17, 2012 at 11:53 pm

Maria, does it matter how or when you add in the dates, dried fruit, grated pear and walnuts? I imagine after everything else is mixed together just at the end, right? Thanks so much.


12 moonwatcher December 18, 2012 at 8:50 am

Hi Carol,

Let’s see..I tend to add the grated fruit in when I’m adding the cooked amaranth mixture, so it becomes part of that “binding process,” and then the dried fruit and chopped dates at the end. But I’ve done it the way you suggest, too, all at the end because I forgot about the grated fruit until then. 🙂 Either way, it turns out fine. The point is to mix everything into a “batter” you can shape into the cookies. I hope you enjoy them!



13 Sally December 18, 2012 at 8:21 am

Hi Maria –

you are a tremendous inspiration to me. Your concept of a “free world” constantly brings a smile to my lips. I am allergic to oats – this was the first one which I identified – shows up as a crippling arthritis. And it doesn’t take much – though apparently oat bran is worse than just whole oats. Remember the oat bran craze? I couldn’t walk! The holidays are a challenge but one we can get through with a smile and bringing along our own special foods for everyone to enjoy and for us to make it home healthy and safe. Thanks.


14 moonwatcher December 18, 2012 at 8:53 am

Hi Sally–

Thank you! I’m so glad my concept of a “free world” makes you smile. We gotta do that, right? And yes, I remember the oat bran craze! It reminds me of a very funny (to me, anyway) New Yorker cartoon around that time that had two executives driving out of an estate gate in a fancy car, one saying to the other, “So much for oat bran!” I hope you have your own special foods that delight this holiday season. And if you ever feel inspired to come up with an “oat free” version of these Holy Shadow Cookies, or anything else I post, please share your inspiration with us! Happy healthy safe holidays back to you!



15 Cherie December 18, 2012 at 4:34 pm

I love this Holy Shadow idea, thanks for sharing!
I also love that whenever I read your blog, regardless of where I am coming from at the time (emotionally), I leave feeling inspired and encouraged.
Thanks for your writing.


16 moonwatcher December 18, 2012 at 6:33 pm

You’re so welcome, Cherie. Thanks for your lovely words about my writing.



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