Gluten Free Banana & Walnut Cookies

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

It has been quite an indulgent week on my part.

I made the most amazing Salted Caramel Chocolate Cake for my birthday - thank you all so much for your wishes (heart) - which I followed with a classic French pastry filled with the most amazing praline and vanilla cream, the by now famous Paris-Brest

This has to end soon! 

My body is not as forgiving as some years ago and my spine has started to complain again about the extra kilos I am forcing her to carry around these past few months.

If you have lower back issues like I do, whether those are a simple pain when you get up from a sitting position that goes away after a few steps or a persistent pain when you bent which has unfortunately moved down your leg, the first thing you have to do is book an appointment with a physiotherapist or an osteopath and then begin exercise to strengthen your core muscles but most importantly lose some weight. Believe me, I know what I am talking about. After two lower back operations and three years of physical therapy I think I have earned my right to talk about this issue with authority

There was a time when I did not spent too much time worrying about how I looked and how my weight might affect my health.

We were posted in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, at the time. Life there was so different, to say the least, from everything I had experienced thus far. I had to wear an abaya whenever I was out in public, there were no movie theatres, no bars, no coffee shops, at least the type of coffee places we are used to in the rest of the world, where men and women (even married to each other) could sit and enjoy a cup of coffee, seeing other people around them. Every cafe and restaurant has a "singles section" where only men are allowed, and a "family section" where women with their husbands are allowed to enter. Each table is curtained off and very private. Imagine eating in a place where you hear other people eating around you but you don't see them. It is a very peculiar feeling. And don't get me started on religious freedom or the lack thereof...

Since there were virtually no ways to entertain ourselves outside our house we went to restaurants on a regular basis. There were not many to chose from, no let me rephrase that, there were not many quality restaurants to chose from. Saudis love American fast food ironic given the recent history, but not really because before the 1980's America practically build the country. But in any event, this is primarily a food blog and I do not want to delve deep into the political intricacies of the Saudi-American relationship. I promise to talk more about the everyday life in Riyadh in many posts to come, but for now if you are thinking of moving there and need more information and an unbiased opinion about living in the country you are welcome to contact me by email.

Now where was I? Going out to restaurants and eating our hearts out because we were frankly too bored to care and was too hot to do any type of physical activity. That was our lifestyle and in three years I managed to gain 30 kilos - that is 66 pound for you, my American friends. 

Here is a picture of me at a very important occasion. The President of Greece was on an official visit to Saudi Arabia. We hosted a reception at our embassy and I look horrible because they're nothing in my closet that would fit me. 90 kilos is A LOT to carry around and that is when my back gave way at age 29. I started to suffer terrible back aches. In just one year the pain spread down my left leg. It went numb and was very very very irritating. Disc hernia was the diagnosis and operation the treatment. 

But I will save this story for another post. 

What I wanted to say before I got so carried away - damn you A.D.D - was that I managed to get back on my feet and feel normal again with lots of exercise and weight control. Here is a picture of me and George at a friend's Halloween party a couple years ago where we won the prize for best costume!

See what difference a bit of exercise does? 30 kilos in three years!!

If you are still with me reading my ramblings please stay a little longer to read the recipe for the Gluten Free Banana &  Walnut cookies. 

This is recipe No3 in my series of baking all the recipes in Robyn Ryberg's The Ultimate Gluten Free Cookie Book

I made them just after the New Year, hence the festive golden background and they turned out very well. 

I am not saying that because they are gluten free are good for a diet. There is sugar in the recipe and eggs and oil so not a typical diet food but as a person who managed to turn her weight around, I want to tell you that for me the most effective diet is not to starve and deprive yourself. 

Have just one cookie with your coffee in the morning or as a sweet treat after a meal and not the whole box.

Moderation is paramount to losing weight in a healthy manner. So don't forget to treat yourself to something nice once a week. 

Here is the recipe.

Gluten Free Banana & Walnut Cookies
Adapted from "The Ultimate Gluten Free Cookie Book" by Robyn Ryberg 
Makes about 30 cookies

1/3 cup (65gr) oil
1/2 cup (100gr) sugar
1 1/2 cups (185gr) brown rice flour
1 egg
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 xanthan gum
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup (60gr) chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350F/180C. 
Lightly grease a cookie tray.
Combine the oil and sugar in a medium bowl and beat well. Add the flour and beat very well. Add all the remaining ingredients and beat well. Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix again. The dough will be soft.

Drop rounded teaspoonfuls of the dough (it is quite sticky don't worry) onto your prepared tray. Wet your fingertips and press the cookies to 0.5cm/0.25inch thickness.

Bake the cookies for 10 minutes until they begin to brown. Let them cool on a wire rack before serving them.