Matcha Almond Cookies
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A few months ago I received an email asking me to enter a recipe contest utilizing matcha. I ended up making some super amazing matcha almond cookies, but before I get to that, I have a few things I would like to say about matcha. For those of you that don’t know what matcha is, it is basically ground up green tea leaves and looks like a green powder. Instead of steeping it in water like with traditional tea, it is mixed into the water and consumed. Because it is actually consumed, some people claim there are even more health benefits of matcha versus traditional green tea.  For those of you that do know about matcha, you have probably heard a lot of buzz about all the health benefits. It seems to be mostly touted as good for your brain and mood, but I have also seen fat burning and metabolism boosting claims.

Matcha Almond Cookies

Prior to this contest, I have never used matcha before and wanted to do some research to see if it lived up to all the hype. Of note…if you don’t know me very well I am a skeptic at heart and like to investigate things myself before I actually believe pretty much anything or trust things, people, etc. It does make me a very good dietitian but sometimes can be a drawback in the social scene or networking for my business. For example… “Why is this person talking to me? What do they want?” is a thought that often goes through my brain.

Anyways…when searching for actual research studies involving matcha, I really did not find that many, and quite a few of them that came up had nothing to do with matcha, but had an author with the last name of Matcha. Super helpful. What I did find however, was that some of the components of matcha have been researched, so a lot of the health claims don’t necessarily involve matcha itself, but those specific compounds in the matcha. While I prefer research with whole foods versus specific components or nutrients, (because we don’t eat nutrients, we eat food) there is really not much available. So let me tell you about some of the research involving a couple of the individual components that are in matcha, because honestly that is all I have.

Caffeine
Has been found to improve performance on certain cognitive tasks, especially ones that are of a longer duration
Increased self reporting of alertness

L-theanine
Improves self reports of relaxation

These two component appear to work synergistically. Adding the L-theanine to the caffeine helps prevent the jitteriness of caffeine due to its relaxation effect, so it is a different type of “high” versus what you would get from drinking coffee.

Additionally, we know the traditional way of consuming green tea is good for you. Research has shown it can reduce the risk of certain types of cancer, improve heart health and may even help you to live longer, among a host of many other possible health benefits. Green tea is loaded with lots of powerful compounds and antioxidants, so that’s great too. We can guess that at least some of these benefits of consuming  traditional green tea will likely also be present when consuming matcha but we really can’t say for certain or to what extent. Also, more is not always better, even if it is more of a good thing, so just dumping a whole bunch of matcha in your smoothie probably isn’t the best idea.

Matcha Almond Cookies

Whether or not matcha is better than traditional green tea is a question that remains to be answered. If you enjoy matcha, go ahead and continue to enjoy it, and if you want to try it, go ahead. But don’t set your expectations too high and believe everything the package claims. So bottomline – adding matcha to recipes will add some caffeine, and a boost of antioxidants, but to say that its health benefits are greater than traditional green tea or to give specific health claims is unfounded at this point in time.

Despite the lack of research I did go ahead and try my hand at including matcha in a recipe with minimal expectations as how it would effect my health. Because maybe in a year or two we will have some more research and proven health benefits. (There were a few promising animal studies I stumbled upon…so maybe the people studies are coming soon?) So let me get to the matcha almond cookies….

I ended up taking one of my favorite almond cookie recipes (It is from David Lebovitz’s blog and you can find it here) and modifying it to include matcha and decrease the amount of sugar and calories to make it a little more nutritious (well as nutritious as a delicious cookies can be). And my matcha almond cookies were born! Adding the matcha definitely added a different layer of flavor and I loved it. It went really well with the almonds and the agave. I may continue to experiment with the matcha to add some flavor depth and additional antioxidants to recipes, but I don’t expect my life or health to change significantly because of it.

Matcha Almond Cookies

Matcha Almond Cookies

Ingredients
3 Egg Whites
Pinch of Salt
2/3 Cup Agave Syrup
1/4 Teaspoon Almond Extract
3 Cups Almond Flour
1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1 Tablespoon Matcha (I used Kiss Me Organics because I received a free sample)

Directions
Preheat oven to 300 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper. Add egg whites and salt to a large mixing bowl. Use a hand mixer to beat egg mixture on low until peaks form. Combine agave with beaten egg whites, then add almond extract and stir well. Add in flour, baking powder and matcha and mix until uniform. Scoop batter by heaping teaspoons onto parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake cookies for 15-17 minutes or until browned on edges. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Makes approximately 40 cookies.
Matcha Almond Cookies
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Gluten Free Zucchini Bread Cookies
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I am a big fan of adding extra fruit or vegetables into recipes…they can contribute a lot of nutrients such as fiber, vitamins, minerals and are generally low in fat and calories. And also, I think they are delicious. But you still need to be careful with what you add to your fruits and veggies. Yes, french fries are made from potatoes but when you deep fry them you can no longer call them healthy. Zucchini bread is also great in theory, you can hide some veggies in a delicious mixture of sugar and all purpose flour, but the sugar and refined flour part really isn’t so good for you. But no worries, you can definitely make it healthier by replacing refined flour with whole grains or nut flour and using less sugar, and maybe using something like fruit to help sweeten it a healthier way.

So last weekend I wanted to try making a healthy gluten free zucchini bread as a treat to share for after yoga, but didn’t want to have to worry about slicing it up and plates etc… so I decided to make it in cookie form, and it worked out really well. Everyone seemed to really like them and I hope you do too! I will definitely be making these again…maybe next time I will try and make them in mini muffin form :)

Gluten Free Zucchini Bread Cookies

Ingredients
1 Medium Banana, Mashed
1 Cup Shredded Zucchini
1 Egg
1/2 Cup Uncooked Quinoa
1 Cup Almond Flour
1/4 Cup Honey
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 tsp Cinnamon
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/4 tsp Salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Bring 1 cup of water to boil in a medium saucepan. Add quinoa and cover and reduce to a simmer for about 15 min or until quinoa is cooked. Add almond flour, cinnamon, baking powder and salt to a large mixing bowl and stir. Add egg, mashed banana, zucchini, vanilla, honey and mash together with a spoon until uniform. Add quinoa after it is done cooking and is mostly cooled; stir in. Drop by spoonfuls down onto a parchment paper lined baking tray. Batter won’t be as thick as usual cookie dough and consistency will be more like thick muffin batter. Bake for about 30 minutes or until cookies become slightly brown on edges and cooked through.

GF Zucchini Bread Cookies

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Whole Grain Buckwheat Cookies
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The holidays are upon us and during this time I know many people (including myself) bake cookies. I wanted to make a healthier cookie that incorporated whole grains and less butter and sugar than traditional cookie recipes. I chose buckwheat cereal because it is a whole grain and I happened to have some on hand. This recipe could also be easily made with oats instead of buckwheat cereal, just make sure that if you are gluten free you purchase gluten free oats (not all oats are gluten free). I also used less sugar than other cookie recipes I came across and used only 1/2 cup of butter (most oatmeal cookie recipes had a whole cup!). I did add a 1/2 cup of unsweetened applesauce to account for the decrease in butter. Even with my alterations, it still looked and tasted like a delicious cookie :)

Buckwheat (or Oatmeal) cookies

Ingredients:
1/2 cup Dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup Craisins
3 cups Buckwheat cereal (or Oatmeal)
1.5 cups almond flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix dry ingredients together except for choc chips and craisins. Add wet ingredients and mix together until uniform. Add choc chips and craisins. Stir together. Roll into 1 inch balls and put on cookie sheet. Bake for about ten minutes. Makes approximately 60 cookies.
Happy Holidays!!!!
Buckwheat Cookies
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