Mary Helen Leonard, author of The Natural Beauty Solution and professionally trained culinary instructor, shares recipes, projects, tips, and stories about living a more natural, handmade, and creative life with her family in Austin, Texas.
After I had CC I was blessed to be surrounded by friends and family bearing delicious baked goods. If you've never gone through it, let me tell you, birth is utterly exhausting. It wipes you out - and for most mamas it is just the beginning. From there it is a long and arduous (though in its own way magical and wonderful) season of life. And I do, literally, mean season. The first three months of life with a baby is pretty intense. Whether you are breastfeeding, bottle-feeding, or feeding through a combination of the two, your body and soul needs tons of support to make it through in one piece.
Enter the lactation cookie. These little nuggets are meant to combine nutrition and pleasure into one pretty little snack. I ate quite a few different kinds of cookies while I was postpartum (no big surprise there - hehehe) and this recipe was created using my favorite parts of each one. I opted to make these into bars instead of traditional drop cookies seeing as they were exceptionally thick and hearty. Plus, to me, a bar feels a little less like a dessert and a little more like a power food - which these certainly qualify for.
Before I dive into the recipe I have an announcement to make! I am working with Spring House Press on a brand new book! This time around I will be focusing on natural and DIY solutions for Mama and Baby during pregnancy and Baby's first year. It is a subject near and dear to my heart and I can't wait to start trying out all of the fun projects I have planned.
Like The Natural Beauty Solution, my second book will include recipes for natural skin and hair care - but this time it will also include recipes for the kitchen and simple sewing and craft projects to indulge your creative side. It's going to be a bit longer and more involved than The Natural Beauty Solution - with tons of input from experts including midwives, pediatricians, herbalists, and yoga teachers! I want this book to be a helpful companion to every mother who wants to incorporate natural solutions into her and her child's life.
The book won't be coming out for a while, but you can keep up with news on The Natural Beauty Solution AND The Handmade Mama by subscribing to my book news email list. In the meantime, I am giving you this recipe as a little preview of what's to come. Creating the ultimate postpartum cookie was my top priority for this book and I am happy to have finished the recipe at just the right time for sharing my news. Yipee!
Baby Mama Postpartum/Lactation Cookie Bars Makes about 28 bars
The cookie starts off with a classic sugar, flour, and butter base, with a dose of iron-rich molasses. Whole oats, flax seeds, hemp hearts, brewer's yeast, and almond flour give the cookies a rich array of protein and nutrients. Dark chocolate chips are added for the shear pleasure of them. If you prefer, try swapping out the chocolate for raisins or another type of dried fruit.
I jokingly forbid Scott to eat these as he is NOT lactating, but these cookies do make an awesome snack for any postpartum mama - lactating or not - and for anyone else helping to care for baby during those early months (or years). Be sure to make and freeze extra so there will be plenty for Daddy, Grandma, Aunties, and anyone else who is down there in the trenches with you.
One more thing: I made this recipe in a large baking dish - the kind of thing you would use for a lasagna or casserole. I haven't experimented with other pan sizes yet, so if you use a smaller pan or dish just keep an eye on the cookies as they bake. They may bake quicker or take extra time if you use a different sized pan as the thickness of the bars will change. Just watch them carefully as they bake - keeping an eye on the color and hardness of the cookies. You are looking for a noticeably darker bottom (deep golden-brown, but not burnt) and a consistent top. To check the bottom, carefully lift the edge of the parchment paper to peek beneath the cookies. When the cookies are finished baking the top of the pan will have a uniform appearance. The inner part of the cookie will look almost as dry as the outer edges.
2 tablespoons ground flax seed
4 tablespoons water
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup molasses*
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour or all-purpose gluten-free flour
1/4 cup almond flour/meal
1/4 cup hemp hearts (hulled)
4 tablespoons brewer's yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup dark chocolate chips
*Use blackstrap molasses for a richer flavor that goes great with raisins!
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Combine the flax seeds and water in a small bowl and set aside.
Cream the butter and sugars together in the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat for ten minutes - or until fluffy.
Add the soaked flax seeds, eggs, molasses, and vanilla and mix until well blended. (Scrape the sides down before blending to make sure everything mixes evenly.)
Whisk together the whole wheat flour, almond flour, hemp hearts, brewer's yeast, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon.
Add the dry ingredients in two parts while mixing continuously on a slow speed. Mix until just combined.
Add the oats and chocolate chips in on a slow speed. Mix until just combined.
Line a 10" x 15" inch (4 quart) baking dish with parchment paper. Drop the cookie dough into the dish and do your best to spread it evenly across the dish - touch each side and corner. It doesn't have to be completely even. It's OK if it is a bit lumpy.
Bake the bars for about 30 minutes or until the bottom of the bars are a deep golden brown and the middle of the pan appears to be thoroughly baked. Rotate the pan about halfway through cooking. (You may need to bake for an extra 10-15 minutes if using gluten-free flour.)
Remove the dish from the oven and allow the bars to cool for one hour before slicing them into bars. Fully cooled bars can be frozen for up to three months in airtight packaging.