13 December 2016

Friends are the Most Important Thing (plus recipe: Double Chocolate Chip Cookies - Gluten Free & Vegan)

When I was in college, and my friend, Ken, left to serve a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormon church), I promised that every time he sent me a letter to let me know how things were going on his mission, I'd send back a care package with a fresh batch of his favorite cookies. He sent me several letters, keeping me up to date on his mission experiences, and he always requested my double chocolate chip cookies, which he shared with the people he was serving in Australia.

Ken and I kept in touch, even after his mission, and when the doctors first found my brain tumor back in 2002, only months after Ken was diagnosed with an aggressive stomach cancer, he helped me to put the fear and worry into perspective. He pointed me to a scripture that has come to be a source of comfort throughout the years, whenever I'm feeling totally lost and alone. From the Book of Mormon (Alma 7:12), speaking of Jesus Christ's Atonement: "And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities."  Ken reminded me that, no matter what we were going through, Jesus Christ suffered all, and he knows exactly what we're feeling. We aren't alone, even when we feel like we are.

Even though we were living many miles apart at the time (Ken and his wife were in Utah, and Phil and I were in California), Ken and I had many phone conversations over the next few months. In fact, this friendship was extremely valuable for all of us during that difficult time. Ken and I were able to talk about our treatments: the pain, the sleepless nights, the things that our spouses just didn't get ... and Phil was able to commiserate with Ken's wife, Suzy, about the difficulties of being a caregiver. The worries, the helplessness, the things Ken and I simply couldn't understand from our points of view.

A few months later, when my little sister got married in Utah, I was able to bring one last care package with double chocolate chip cookies to Ken, though I had to give them to Suzy to bring to him, as Ken was too sick to meet with us by that time.

I still think of Ken every time I make my double chocolate chip cookies, and I miss him more than ever, as I sometimes wish I still had someone who "gets it" just a phone call away.

This year, I tweaked my tried-and-true recipe a bit to fit my own recent special dietary needs. But the cookies still tasted just like the fudgy, deliciousness that Ken always requested in his care packages.

Gluten-Free, Vegan, Double Chocolate Chip Cookies
You will need:

1 c. coconut oil
1/4 c. grapeseed oil
2 1/2 c. sugar
4 tbsp. tapioca starch
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla
1 c. water
2 c. cocoa powder
2 c. gluten-free flour (I used Bob's Red Mill 1 to 1 All-Purpose flour)
(optional) 1 pkg. vegan, soy-free chocolate chips (I use either Enjoy Life! brand or the Wegman's organic chocolate chips)

Cream together oils and sugar, until light and fluffy. 

Beat in tapioca starch, baking powder, salt, and vanilla. 

While continuing to mix at low speed, slowly drizzle in water until fully incorporated. Then, turn mixer up to high and beat 1-2 minutes.

Mix in cocoa powder. Then, add flour, and mix to combine.

Stir in chocolate chips. Chill dough in refrigerator for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Form dough into 1/2-inch balls. (I used a mini cookie scoop, but you can do this by hand, if you don't have a small cookie scoop.) Drop onto parchment-lined baking sheet.

Bake 8 minutes. 

Cool slightly on baking sheet, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Cookies should be soft and fudgy (more like a brownie consistency.)

You can also freeze the dough in individual portions on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. When fully frozen (after 2+ hours), transfer to large zipper-style freezer bags for future use. You can bake the cookies from frozen at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for 12-14 minutes.

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