Just Because

I wake up in the morning and consult the Google calendar. Lately I’m not sure how I could make much of anything happen without it. Tasks are driven largely by to-do lists with breaks for an occasional lunch. And lots of granola baking in between. My yoga teacher hasn’t seen a whole lot of me, and Sam and I finally went grocery shopping for real last night (it’s been awhile). This time of year seems populated by things that other people need done: from the farmers market organizers to new Marge vendors and book-related emails  — there’s a lot to tend to. That is, until the craving to bake cookies strikes on Sunday night and it seems that, actually, everyone can wait.

This newfound uber-busyness is largely because the farmers market season has started for Marge, so the week is dotted with new markets, new baking days, and lots of errands. Regardless, we’re going to try and sneak away on Saturday night for a quick camping trip. Preferably with cookies, a little flask of bourbon, some oats for morning oatmeal, a good flashlight and a few books. Sam wants to cook steak over the coals — I’m nervous about that and am voting for pesto pasta instead. We’ll see who wins out.

Ultimately, I suppose, it really doesn’t matter because we’ll be in the woods without email. And sometimes when everyone else needs something from you (and needs it now), it’s really nice to just close the computer screen, put on a Townes Van Zandt record, and do something for no other reason than ‘just because.’  Like getting out in the woods or baking cookies. I hope you enjoy a long weekend, too. And that you answer to no one other than yourself. For at least a day.

A quick note on these cookies: These were inspired by a cookie recipe on Sprouted Kitchen last week for Mapled Chocolate Chip Cookies. For ‘just because’ cookies, these may seem a little high maintenance on first glance. But they’re really not. The method is a wet/dry ingredient affair, but I do understand that all of the ingredients may not be in your cupboards. Quinoa flakes are so wonderful in baked goods — they add a nice, chewy texture and a good hit of protein. They’re easy to come by in gourmet or natural grocery stores but if you can’t track them down, feel free to substitute rolled oats (not instant) instead. If you don’t have almond meal, simply grind raw almonds down in your food processor until a fine powder forms. As for flax seeds, they’re optional. They add a nice crunch that I really love, but you could also grind them into a powder and fold them in that way instead; your body will absorb the nutrients more readily, but you’re sacrificing that beloved crunch. And I choose crunch. Ultimately, for this weekend at least, choose what makes you happiest.


Nutty Dark Chocolate, Coconut, Quinoa Cookies

Nutty Dark Chocolate, Coconut, Quinoa Cookies

  • Yield: 15 3-inch cookies
  • Prep time: 15 mins
  • Cook time: 14 mins
  • Inactive time: 30 mins
  • Total time: 59 mins

As with all of my recipes, substitute away as you wish. If you like raisins or dried cranberries, you could fold those in in lieu of chocolate chips. Instead of pecans, chopped hazelnuts would be dreamy. As would walnuts. And instead of whole-wheat flour, spelt flour would be a great swap. You’re going to pull these cookies out of the oven and they’re going to seem not quite done — they’ll firm up slightly as they cool, and they’re oh-so-wonderful when they sag a little in the middle. They’re much softer and chewier than they are firm and crisp — just how I like them. I think that you will, too.


1/2 cup (1 stick) plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup natural cane sugar (like turbinado sugar)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg, lightly whisked
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup almond meal
3/4 cup quinoa flakes
3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup chopped dark chocolate (or chocolate chips)
1/2 cup unsweetened flake coconut
3 tablespoons flax seeds, optional
1/2 cups pecan halves, chopped
flaky salt (like Maldon), to top (optional)


Preheat the oven to 350 F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or line with an oven-safe baking mat.

Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or hand beaters, cream the butter and both sugars on medium speed until they’re pale and fluffy. Add the egg, vanilla and salt and mix until just combined.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the almond meal, quinoa flakes, whole-wheat flour, and baking soda.  Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Add the chocolate, coconut, flax and pecans and fold a few times to combine – be careful not to over mix. Cover and place in the refrigerator to chill for at least 30 minutes and up to overnight.

Form a heaping tablespoon of the mixture into a ball and place on the baking sheet, 1 ½-inches apart. Flatten very gently with the palm of your hand and sprinkle the tops with flaky salt. Bake for about 12-14 minutes, or until golden on top (they may seem a touch underdone, but they’ll continue to crisp up as they cool).

Remove from the oven and cool on baking sheets for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool. Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.


  1. Amanda @ Once Upon a Recipe

    These cookies look wonderful Megan. There is something so dreamy about your recipes - I can't quite put my finger on it. Maybe it's the words that accompany them, but you always manage to make me feel this intense need to race home and bake/cook up each dang thing immediately. I am afraid for your cookbook (a good kind of afraid) - I may need to just take a week off work to make everything!
    Have a lovely "unplugged" weekend. Sounds like you deserve it!

  2. Bowen

    These look great! I've never baked with quinoa flakes - are they a pretty straight substitute for rolled oats in other recipes too?

    1. megang

      In forgiving baking recipes (cookies, quick breads, muffins) -- they should be a pretty straightforward substitue. You can make a porridge from them, too (just like oatmeal) .You can fold them into homemade granola. They're great! Enjoy.

  3. Anna

    I found quinoa flakes a few weeks ago. Not my favorite for breakfast (I think I like regular quinoa better) but amazingly I have pretty much everything I need to make these. I don't even need an excuse since they are just because cookies :) Thanks!

  4. Paula @ Vintage Kitchen

    Steaks over the coals, these cookies, books and no internet, sounds like a dream date with your other half! I never saw flakes, but we here have puffed quinoa, like puffed rice. Wonder how they will do in this recipe.

    1. megang

      Hi Paula: I think puffed quinoa will act a bit differently as they won't soak up the moisture as much as quinoa flakes will. That being said, I'm dying to know how they'd turn out! If you try them, let me know. Enjoy your week, ~mg

  5. Elizabeth @ Coppertop Kitchen

    I have all of these things! Silver lining of this weird late spring cold snap we're having in Chicago: soup and baking are back for a day or two! Thanks for the recipe!

    1. megang

      Hooray, Elizabeth! Hope you liked the cookies. And hoping we both get a little sun one of these days soon! ~mg

  6. thelittleloaf

    What an absolutely gorgeous idea. I've been using quinoa flakes in granola so have a large pack in the cupboard which could easily be turned into cookies instead. Have a lovely camping trip!

    1. megang

      Thanks so much, Kate. Yes quinoa flakes have been sneaking into quite a few things around here lately. Hope you're enjoying your week! ~mg

  7. Colleen

    Love this post. I'm writing to you from the air - somewhere over northern Florida headed to Tampa. You point about closing the computer screen and doing things "just because" is perfect. Time to start this vacation! Enjoy your long weekend.

    1. megang

      Colleen: A comment from the air: I'm honored! So glad you enjoyed the post, and even more -- that vacation is treating you well. ~mg

  8. erin

    These cookies look utterly beguiling. I can totally understand the whole busy-ness of life and needing to get away from everything. I really love taking off for a few days, just to breathe and to be.
    I hope you get the rest and refreshment that you need.

    1. megang

      Thanks so much for your sweet comment, Erin. Enjoy the cookies, ~mg

  9. Joanna

    These cookies are heading straight to the top of my "must make" list. Mmmm.

    1. megang

      Enjoy, Joanna!

  10. sara forte

    yes! I made a second batch of ours soon as the first batch was finished. I tried a GF route and then put chocolate coconut ice cream between them - that was my favorite. We've kept the batter in the fridge, making two big ones at a time in the toaster oven so we can have them warm. Oh yes. I can't wait to try them with the quinoa flakes! Great idea. Hope you get some rest. Never feels good to be plagued by lists. Even if they exist, hope you can ignore them for just a day and enjoy. xo

    1. megang

      Sara: I'm ready for a second batch myself! They are so, so delicious. I want to use a little teff flour next time .... oh the options! But I think keeping a little batter in the fridge is the way to go. Warm cookies at night? Yes! Hope all is well with you and you guys are enjoying some early summer sun (we're not but we like to live vicariously through you CA folks). xox

  11. Natasha Minocha

    Gorgeous cookies..indulgent and healthy all at once! Could I substitute regular quinoa instead of the flakes? We don't get quinoa flakes in India and I really have been wanting to use quinoa in regular baking.

    1. megang

      Hi, Natasha! Thanks so much for your note. You know, unfortunately regular quinoa is definitely going to act differently in these cookies. I'll work on a recipe for regular quinoa in something delicious; in the meantime, I'd use rolled oats in these cookies if I were you. Enjoy your week! ~mg

  12. Natasha Minocha

    Thanks Megan! Look forward to your quinoa based recipe. Having very recently stumbled upon your blog, am totally loving it! Really enjoy this space, apart from the wonderful recipes, there is this sense of calm here.

  13. Kasey

    I wholeheartedly agree. Sometimes, everyone else can wait. A cookie beckons!

Join the Discussion

Glimpses of Spring

Minestrone Verde with White Beans and Pesto

Minestrone Verde with White Beans and Pesto

We returned home from San Francisco on New Years Eve just in time for dinner, and craving greens -- or anything other than baked goods and pizza (ohhhh San Francisco, how I love your bakeries. And citrus. And winter sunshine).  Instead of driving straight home, we stopped at our co-op where I ran in for some arugula, an avocado, a bottle of Prosecco, and for the checkout guys to not-so-subtly mock the outlook of our New Years Eve: rousing party, eh? They looked to be in their mid-twenties and I figured I probably looked ancient to them, sad even. But really, there wasn't much sad (or rousing, to be fair) about our evening: putting Oliver to bed, opening up holiday cards and hanging them in the kitchen, and toasting the New Year with arugula, half a quesadilla and sparkling wine. It wasn't lavish. But it's what we both needed. (Or at least what we had to work with.) Since then, I've been more inspired to cook lots of "real" food versus all of the treats and appetizers and snacks the holidays always bring on. I made Julia Turshen's curried red lentils for the millionth time, a wintry whole grain salad with tuna and fennel, roasted potatoes, and this simple green minestrone that I've taken for lunch this week. Determined to fit as many seasonal vegetables into a bowl as humanly possible, I spooned a colorful pesto on top, as much for the reminder of warmer days to come as for the accent in the soup (and for the enjoyment later of slathering the leftover pesto on crusty bread).

Read More
Quick Pickled Strawberries

Quick Pickled Strawberries

It turns out shopping for wedding dresses is nothing like they make it appear in the movies. Or at least it hasn't been for me. Angels don't sing. Stars don't explode. Relatives don't cry. There isn't a sudden heart-stopping moment that this is, in fact, "the one." To be honest, I always knew that I wasn't the kind of gal for whom angels would sing or stars would explode but I did think I'd have some kind of moment where I could tell I'd found the best dress. Instead, my mom flew into town and we spent three (yes, three!!) days shopping for dresses, and since then I've been back to the stores we visited -- and I'm more undecided than ever. Tomorrow morning I'll return with my friend Keena to try and tie this business up once and for all. Cross your fingers. 

Read More
Feeding Ourselves Well

Feeding Ourselves Well

When I was single and living alone in the Bay Area, I made virtually the same thing for dinner each night. I ate meals quickly while in front of the computer. Or even worse: the television. This most often included what I call "Mexican Pizzas" which were basically glorified quesadillas baked in the oven until crispy. Sometimes, if I was really feeling like cooking, I'd whip up a quick stir-fry with frozen vegetables from Trader Joe's or a mushroom frittata using pre-sliced mushrooms. Mostly, though, it was Mexican Pizzas -- a good four or five nights a week. Today, thankfully, dinner looks a lot different. Meals in general look a lot different. How would I explain that difference? I think that ultimately how we feel about our life colors how we choose to feed ourselves and the importance that we place on preparing our own meals.

Read More
Farro Salad with Arugula, Lemon, Feta and Pistachio

Farro Salad with Arugula, Lemon, Feta and Pistachio

Today was 75 degrees in Seattle and it seemed the whole city was out and about drinking iced coffee in tank tops and perhaps not working all that hard. When we have a hit of sunshine like this in April (or, really, any time of the year), we're all really good at making excuses to leave the office early -- or, simply, to "work from home." I just got back from LA last night, unpacked in a whirlwind this morning, and took Oliver to meet up with three friends from our parents group at the zoo. The only other time I'd been to the Seattle zoo was once with Sam a few years ago when we arrived thirty minutes before closing and ended up doing a whirlwind tour -- sprinting from the giraffes to the massive brown bear to the meerkat. The visit today was much different: we strolled slowly trying to avoid the spring break crowds and beating sun. I managed to only get one of Oliver's cheeks sunburned, and he even got in a decent nap. A success of an afternoon, I'd say. Coming home I realized we didn't have much in the fridge for lunch -- but thankfully there was a respectable stash of Le Croix (Le Croix season is back!) and a small bowl of this whole grain salad I made right before I left town. It's the kind of salad that's meant for this time of year: it pulls off colorful and fresh despite the fact that much of the true spring and summer produce isn't yet available. And for that reason, I make a few versions of it in early spring, often doubling the recipe so there's always the possibility of having a small bowl at 1 p.m. while the baby naps in the car seat, one cheek sunburned, windows and back door open -- a warm breeze creeping into the kitchen. 

Read More
Whole Grain Any-Fruit Crisp

Whole Grain Any-Fruit Crisp

On Monday our little family of three is headed to the airport at 6 am to board our first with-baby cross-country trip. We'll be visiting Sam's family in New Jersey for a few days, then renting a car and driving over to meet up with my family at my mom's lake house in the Adirondacks. Sam's younger sister and her kids have yet to meet Oliver; my grandpa has yet to meet him, and Oliver has yet to take a dunk in a lake, see a firefly, or spend quality time with energetic dogs -- of which there will be three. A lot of firsts. This week my family has been madly texting, volunteering to make certain meals or sweets on assigned days while we're at the cabin and it got me thinking about really simple, effortless summer desserts -- in particular, ones that you can make while staying in a house with an unfamiliar kitchen and unfamiliar equipment and still do a pretty bang-up job. I think fruit crisp is just that thing. 

Read More