But Then

I am opposed to healthy desserts. I am averse to them. I loath them. I am aggressive in my defiance towards them (thank you, Word Perfect Prompt-As-You-Go). Reduced-fat cream cheese? No way. Whole wheat cookies? Blech. Applesauce in place of oil, or yogurt in place of sour cream? I don’t think so.

Desserts are supposed to be rich and sweet, made from the best of butters and sugars and chocolates and creams. I would much rather eat a small piece of deliciously calorie-laden cheesecake any day, instead of a medium-sized piece of pallid reduced-fat, reduced-sugar cheesecake. (Of course, the “small” piece of cheesecake is for theoretical purposes only.)

But then I ate these walnut balls, and I’m having to eat my words, along with them.

These cookies are rich, decadent, and divinely delicious, but they are also, I still can hardly believe this, healthy. As in, their base consists of ground-up walnuts. And there is some whole wheat flour in them. And flax meal.

Flax meal in cookies? I know! I felt the same way! I could handle the nuts alright, but the whole wheat flour was pushing it, and then to add flax? Good heavens, I thought, Someone has surely gone over the deep end! But, this recipe works. It not only works, it also jives and jitters and does the two-step Mombo-Bombo. (I made that up.)

And I have yet to even mention the clincher: there is no refined sugar. Instead, the recipe calls for maple syrup. (And dark chocolate chips, but they do not, I repeat, do not, count as a refined sugar.)

I can not believe how much I love these cookies. If I had to pick just one of the many cookies that are crammed into my freezer to eat, right now, I would choose the walnut balls. The texture is superb—chewy, dense, tender. And the flavor is deep: dark and nutty, with a just a touch of bitter. And then there is the chocolate.

Now, I will admit that the final cookie looked a little too healthy to suit me. They had a bit of a grayish hue to them, making them look dull and unappetizing (devious little things), but I, brilliant cook that I am, remedied that problem by rolling the little sweets in a some powdered sugar. Then they just looked white and sweet … and totally plain.

Like I said, devious little buggers.

I am no longer opposed to healthy desserts—it’s just not possible, after eating these walnut balls. Therefore, I now believe that healthy desserts are fine, as long as they are made from pure ingredients, and as long as the end result is both rich and decadent.

Walnut Balls
Recipe gifted to me, via cell phone, by my girlfriend Linell

2 ½ cups English walnuts
2/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup flax meal
½ cup, plus a little drizzle more, maple syrup
1 teaspoons salt, scant
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/3 cup chocolate chips (I used mini chips)
Powdered sugar, for rolling

Grind the walnuts to a fine powder in a food processor. Dump the ground nuts into a bowl and add the flour, flax, and salt. Stir well. Add the vanilla and maple syrup and mix until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips. Shape the cookies into small balls, the size of a large gum ball, and line them up on a cookie sheet. They do not change shape while baking, so you’ll probably be able to fit them all on one cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes, until the bottoms are golden brown and the tops are tinged with brown.

While the cookies are still warm, roll them in powdered sugar, and then roll them in powdered sugar once more before serving.

These cookies freeze well, but will need to be rolled in powdered sugar again before serving (they get all blotchy and mottled in the freezer), so only roll them in sugar once before freezing—save the second rolling for when you get them out to eat. Otherwise, you will be rolling them three times, and that would totally defeat the Healthy Cookie Effect.

Yield: not enough.


  • Anonymous

    PPS – I like your food for thought:

    “It is better to keep your mouth shut and let people think you a fool, then to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” Abraham Lincoln (The quote is from memory, so it’s probably a paraphrase.)

    I had to laugh, though. I think I tend to remove all doubt.


  • Anonymous

    Healthy desserts, as with any food, are absolutely better with pure, whole ingredients. That, as much as anything, makes a food, dessert or not, rich and decadent.

    In my efforts to stay away from the sugars which seem to wreak havoc on my body/mind/spirit, I use maple syrup (because of my upstate NY family connections) in place of almost all refined sugars, and usually half the amount suggested in recipes. (Except for cookies, which I make rarely.) My taste buds have adjusted to less sweetness, so that I almost forget when cooking for others that my desserts are so much less sweet. I enjoy adding whole grains to cobblers, crisps, muffins, even cakes, pairing the full-bodied flavors of wheat or oats or sorghum flour with cocoa or apples or pumpkin.

    That said, I allow myself the intensely rich now and then. Sometimes when I'm craving chocolate, I'll melt a spoonful of unrefined coconut oil, stir in some organic cocoa powder, a pinch of cayenne and cinnamon, a swirl of New York maple syrup and splash of my homemade vanilla extract (vodka & organic beans). Spoon into mouth and sigh…


    PS – Don't think you can get away with saying the walnut balls have no refined sugar around me! I'll point to the chocolate chips AND the powdered sugar coating. Maybe they could be rolled in powdered maple sugar (or powdered Rapadura?), and there are fine chocolate chips made with evaporated cane juice. Let me know when you make 'em like that… 🙂

  • 40winkzzz

    I agree with you– good nutrition should not extend to desserts. I think it was Martin Luther who said, “If you must sin, sin boldly,” and I do think he was referring to all manner of sweet goodies. However, I also agree with you that those walnut balls look and sound delicious. Especially with the powdered sugar.

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