a perfectly sized seasonal prize (cookies inside!)

Winter mornings are dark.

I’m sitting in my office where I can see both the dining room and living room in my house, and snow covering the back porch right outside my office door. I haven’t yet turned on the lights in each room as I typically do each morning, illuminating the dawn.

My son’s breakfast sits still untouched on the dining room table.

Teenagers don’t have much of a morning appetite. And while breakfast may have been recently downgraded from its position as ‘the most important meal of the day’, I have to wonder (as I do with most research), if those more recent studies haven’t fully explored what’s for breakfast and who’s eating it.

Personally, I’m a wreck without my morning meal (and there’s no room for that!).

Last night I sat in this same spot, in the dark, talking to my mom. She was reminiscing about the trials and tribulations of this time last year – navigating the worst of my dad’s illness.

Digesting life without him is still a new reality for her. For us all, really.

And for this one pensive moment, I welcome the dark.

I embrace the quiet.

And I recognize that this meditation is really what’s called for this season.

While I share a moment of contemplation and invite you to take one for yourself today (and every day) amongst the holiday lights and flurry, what I’d like to turn our attention to is cookies.

That’s right, cookies.

This week I’m taking our spice focus to the cookie jar!

I couldn’t help myself. Collections of cookies are showing up in the holiday mail and I’m baking cookies for the Christmas party at my son’s school tomorrow night.

And, if I’m to be perfectly honest, I’d pass up pie any day for a plate of cookies!

They’re sweet and cute – like the kittens of dessert.

They land in the day like a neat little (well-deserved and perfectly sized) prize.

And when your diet is a little off-the-beaten-track, as mine tends to be, a stack of scrumptious yet “kosher” Christmas cookies is not so easy to come by.

Yet, trust me, that doesn’t have to be the case.

what’s in my spice cupboard today?

it’s cardamom (and cookies!)

First let’s talk cardamom…

Although not as common in kitchens here in the US, cardamom is an everyday spice in many corners of the world, including India and the Middle East, where it’s revered for both its culinary flavor and medicinal properties.

Cardamom is composed of a small pod with black seeds inside. Both the seeds and the pod share the same distinct aroma and taste that’s a bit hard to describe.

Is it citrusy, woodsy, lemony, peppery, spicy, sweet, or some combination of them all? (Perhaps only your nose knows what it smells and tastes like to you!)

You might find a few different forms of cardamom if you sleuth around your local spice shop or ethnic market. The small and light green pods are called Elettaria and often called true cardamom while the larger pods are referred to as Amomum and may be black, white or red.

Either type of cardamom is excellent and I encourage you to try them all.

Interestingly, cardamom is from the same family of plants as ginger (Zingiberaceae) which may be why the two taste so terrific together and share many of the same medicinal qualities. (Try this perfect pair in this ginger chai latte which will complement your cookies quite nicely!)

While the taste alone is enough for me to include more cardamom, it’s also a super spice when it comes to its medicinal properties, making it a favorite in both Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicines.

The most common use of cardamom is as a remedy for gastrointestinal disorders. Clinical trials have shown that the volatile oil present in cardamom (called methanolic extract) helps reduce flatulence, ease stomach cramps and supports proper digestion. Much like its plant partner, ginger, cardamom can also help combat nausea, heartburn, bloating, and loss of appetite.

Throughout history, cardamom has been utilized for its infection-fighting properties. Clinical trials now support this ancient wisdom with research showing that the volatile extracts contain antimicrobial properties that can inhibit the growth of microbes that often cause food poisoning, in addition to pathogenic viruses, bacteria, fungus and mold.

Similar to turmeric, cardamom is known to be anti-inflammatory. This makes it a powerful partner to help decrease inflammation and reduce pain and swelling, especially in mucus membranes and the throat.

If those reasons aren’t enough, know that cardamom is rich in various vitamins and micronutrients, especially manganese which plays a role in bone strength, healthy skin, balanced blood sugar and blood pressure. It also packs a punch with B-vitamins, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, sodium, potassium, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, and zinc.

Just like some of our other favorite spices, you may get a bit zesty in the bedroom with a sprinkle of this condiment too. Cardamom has long been accepted as an aphrodisiac and was once even considered as a cure for impotency.

Cookies anyone?

cardamom thumbprint cookies

gluten free cardamom thumbprint cookies | Replenish PDXThumbprint cookies are a holiday favorite, and festive looking to boot. This recipe is so simple, the little ones in your life (little people or little thumbs) can easily help from start to finish.

Watch out…Santa might just stay until morning if you leave these cookies out on Christmas Eve!

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ cups almond flour
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp ground cardamom
  • ¼ cup melted coconut oil
  • 3 Tbsp organic maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp gelatin powder (Great Lakes red label)
  • 3 Tbsp hot water
  • unsweetened or fruit-sweetened fruit preserves or jam (red is jolly!)

Preparation

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Heat 3 tablespoons of hot water in a small saucepan. Once it begins to steam, sprinkle gelatin powder over top. Turn off heat. Allow gelatin to sit and “bloom.” Then whisk briskly until foamy and dissolved.

Add coconut oil, maple syrup, and vanilla extract to gelatin and whisk to combine. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix thoroughly, until dough forms.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Roll a small amount of dough in your hands to make a 1-½ inch ball. Repeat with remaining dough and place on cookie sheet.

Use your thumb to create a shallow well in the center of each dough ball and fill with ½ teaspoon of fruit preserves.

Bake 8-12 minutes, until edges are golden. Allow to cool slightly and enjoy! This recipe makes about 20 cookies.

It’s hardly homework since it’s an assignment I think you’ll be eager to accept but I hope you will take a bit of time to bake a batch of cardamom cookies.

Bonus points if you take a break from this hectic holiday season to soak up some of our favorites spices. Whip up your favorite elixir from the past few weeks (maybe the apple cinnamon elixir or the superfood Mexican hot chocolate), put your cardamom cookies on a pretty plate, and relax in a quiet place with a good book or a quiet mind.

And if you you have a cookie recipe that features cardamom or any of our other featured spices, I most certainly want to know about it. (I’m always on the lookout for a quick and easy cookie recipe.)

Share your favorite cookie recipe with me on the Replenish PDX Facebook Page .

Who knows, maybe the cookie-makers in your life will get inspired to bake a batch that suits the occasion (the holiday and your parameters).

Let’s infuse our collective cookie plate with nourishing spices and a whole lot of love this season. And all around, give yourself a thumbs up with a thumbprint.

Warmly,
Andrea Nakayama

 

in the kitchen with cardamom

When buying fresh cardamom pods, they should be heavy and have a sweet aroma when rubbed. (Pass on the the pods that feel light and have surface discoloration or spots.)

  • cardamom | Replenish PDXmake cardamom-infused tea by simmering whole cardamom pods, alone, with
    ginger, or to enhance any type of tea you like
  • cardamom compliments sweets and desserts and is a common addition in Indian-inspired treats (like our cookies)
  • add ground cardamom to savory dishes like meat stews, lentil dishes, rice-pilafs and curries
  • make cardamom your secret smoothie ingredient with a dash or two in it or on top
    kheer or rice pudding often features cardamom paired with pistachio and raisins; play with that combination in treats of any kind
  • diffuse or inhale cardamom essential oil to ease digestive issues or improve alertness


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Your comments and feedback are always welcome. Is there an ingredient you'd like to learn more about? Is there a nutrition class you always wish existed? Let me know!