What I love most about her is her creative thoughtfulness. My Aunt Suzy sent care packages to my dorm room in college themed around the given holiday or "brain food" when it was time for finals. She makes these really delicious cookie-brownie bars that I hesitated to share and always included a homemade card. I could spot her hand writing anywhere, small and long, just a bit loopy. Aunt Suzy never forgets a birthday, is the first to organize family dinners or the Christmas gift exchange. When Hugh and I got married, the venue had lounge couches that were a bit worn, to say the least, and my aunt sewed new slipcovers for them. I mean, seriously. I wouldn't have even done that for my own wedding. I can't paint a colorful enough picture of this exceptional woman. She is a leader, organized, a problem solver, assertive and goofy enough to soften those qualities out. Always the generous type, she piped in during my book writing process to be a recipe tester when I mentioned I needed more feedback. As I could have assumed, her emails to me were full of detail, responses from her family and how she visited multiple markets in search of mushroom broth. She has always made me feel loved through quality time - be it an intentionally themed care package, planning a coffee date when we haven't chatted in a while, or the support and effort she showed me when the process of writing a book overwhelmed every part of me.

Now, as an aunt of two girls myself, I see more clearly every way she has cared for me and how that love has matured as I've grown up. Surely you can read through the lines how much I admire her, and how strong she is. The type who trained to climb Half Dome, in Yosemite, CA right after her second year of chemotherapy. Her cancer is back for a third time, a battle I know many others are watching a loved one fight, and I am motionless on how I can give love back to her. Every letter I start seems underwhelming, as I cannot relate to what she is going through or how defeated this must make her feel. How do I tell her I am angry and completely scared while being a voice of hope, encouragement and support? I want to be her most enthusiastic cheerleader, while still needing to kick my feet that this is not fair. I brought over soup a few weeks ago, which felt so lackluster compared to how my heart feels - a feeling I can't put my finger on let alone communicate to her. So I baked. Not to give these cookies away, but to be in a familiar process, to slow down, and let myself feel sad so I can be a niece who sits right next to her, as I'm confident to say we're both scared.

I bookmarked this recipe in the newly released Small Plates and Sweet Treats: My Family's Journey to Gluten Free Cooking by Aran Goyoaga of Cannelle et Vanille. It's truly a stunning book, beautiful and romantic in the same way that Aran's blog is. Her book takes you through the seasons featuring gluten free desserts and small meals that are full of color, creativity and fresh produce. I am excited to try her bread recipe and a few of the soups as the weather around here is getting a bit of a chill. I had the ingredients for these cookies, always a reinforcement to make something immediately, and they are just as delicious as I assumed they'd be. The book is beautifully designed and photographed, like a fairytale of gluten free foods. Congratulations to you Aran, I'm glad to have your fabulous cookie recipe in rotation around here. The book is a treasure to be proud of. 


Recipe from Small Plates and Sweet Treats by Aran Goyoaga

I only tweaked one thing in Aran's recipe to avoid a trip to the market. She calls for 1/2 cup superfine brown rice flour and 1/4 cup tapioca starch and I substituted 3/4 cup gluten free all purpose flour (I use King Arthur, which has rice flour and tapioca starch in it). I found this substitution to work fine, though maybe a tad more delicate, but want you know what the original states. 


  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup natural cane sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark muscavado or dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup gluten free all purpose flour (see note)
  • 1/3 cup buckwheat flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup mini chocolate chips or chopped chocolate
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans (or hazelnuts)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes, roughly chopped


Combine the butter and both sugars in a stand mixer and mix for three minutes. 

Add the vanilla and egg and mix to combine, scraping the sides. 

Add the gluten free flour (or rice flour if using), buckwheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Mix until dough just comes together. 

Add the chocolate, oats, pecans and coconut. Mix until ingredients come together, dough will be sticky. Transfer the dough to a piece of parchment and roll into a tight log 16'' long and about 2'' in diameter. Refrigerate for one hour. 

Preheat the oven to 350'. Cut the cookie dough log into 1/2'' thick disks. Place the cookies on a parchment lined cookie sheet, spaced 2'' apart. Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes, you want them to look slightly underbaked. They get very crispy if overcooked, air on the side of undercooking. 

The raw dough or baked cookies keep for 5 days.

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Reader Comments (66)

oh I'm so sorry to hear your aunt has cancer. what a beautiful person and special post.

October 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSimply Life

I need to make these cookies asap - they look fantastic!

October 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKitty

Love these. They truly do have everything! Yum!

Oh, Sara, what a beautiful description of your aunt and what a heartbreak to see her hurting. I'm so thankful for the gift of baking when my heart feels heavy, too. I prayed for you both when I read this post.

October 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterShanna

each one of it looks so gorgeous and perfectly yumm..

October 23, 2012 | Unregistered Commentersreebindu

It is such a weird place to be. My grandma just entered round two of the cancer battle, so I can't even imagine the frustration of a third time. It sounds like her brave, strong nature has rubbed off on you in spades. And these cookies are just the treat to make you slow down and take it all in. I wish your family the best in these hard times.

October 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle

Thank you Sara and Hugh for featuring the recipe in the blog. Pleased to hear that you liked them!

October 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAran

Hi friend, wanted to stop by to send you and your aunt lots of warm and encouraging thoughts. I'm sure reading this post would make her smile...sometimes the best thing to do is just put yourself in a familiar place and allow yourself to be sad. xoxo

October 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKasey

Oh Sara, I just got a little teary, my heart goes out to you and your family. Your aunt sounds like an incredible woman. I'm sure she will love knowing that baking cookies makes you think of her. Much love lady, xo.

October 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJacqui

Oh Sara this post is beautiful and heartbreaking. You've crafted the perfect letter to your aunt in this post. Praying for you and your family right now. Thank you for sharing about her here. I'm so inspired by your words of her love and service. Just beautiful.

October 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAshley

Sending all the positive energy I can muster to your aunt, Sara. I often find myself baking when I don't know what else to do. Best wishes to your family. Oh and it goes without saying that these cookies look great.

October 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKathryne

A beautiful post. Your gratitude shines throughout, no action is too small, even if it is "just soup". I'll be sending light and positive energy to you and your aunt. These cookies look like the ultimate comfort. I will need to make these soon!

October 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGrace

so wonderful, makes me happy to see gluten-free baking <3

October 23, 2012 | Unregistered Commentercristina

I'm liking that blur in the first picture! This is exactly what a cookie should be: equal parts chewy, chocolatey and nutty :)

October 23, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterthecitygourmand

I really like the use of buckwheat flour and the way you rolled the dough in the parchment paper to give the correct shape!

October 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMike

Hope your aunt will be alright again. She sound like an incredible woman with a big heart. Will be making these cookies for sure. Aran's cookies newer fail to excite.

October 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSini

It is never easy to be on the sidelines watching someone that you love go through something so awful. Sending lots of positive thoughts her (and your) way. Love the sound of these cookies and, of course, the photographs. Thank you for sharing.

October 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKathryn

Sara... so sorry to hear about your Aunt Suzy. And thank you for sharing a great recipe and, as usual, wonderful photos to accompany.

October 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCat V

Your description of your aunt Suzy is lovely and touching, my thoughts go out to her. No action is too small, I'm sure she relishes every little gesture you make for her ! It's always nice to know that you've been in someone thoughts (and nothing says that like baked goods, surely... I'm very intrigued by her cookie-brownie bar hybrid you mentioned !)

October 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAmani

A beautiful story. I wish your lovely aunt strength and good fortune. I'm sure you lightup her life in a similar way.

October 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSarah @ two blue lemons

Reading about your aunt made me wish I had her as an aunt, too. I know what it's like to feel helpless when a loved one is going through something so scary, but I'm sure your words here and in person are an enormous comfort to her. She definitely knows how much you love her because you make that beautifully clear in this post.

October 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAna

Sometimes going back to something comforting such as baking eases the mind and makes life easier to process. My thoughts are with you in this challenging time!

October 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAbby@Totes Delish

My heart goes out to your aunt. She is a remarkable woman, you are lucky to have her in your life.

Hugs to you and aunt Suzy.

October 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLaura

Your posts are so heartfelt and warm, Sara. It makes me want to be a better writer! Thank you for sharing.

October 24, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermegan

<3 my heart goes out to you and your aunt. these cookies look amazing!

October 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTina

So sorry to hear about your aunt having to suffer. This is the time though, for long letters filled with small little details that may be trivial to you, but are sure to make her smile. This post made me tear up, one of my loved ones is dealing with an illness too. Anger and fear are emotions I fall asleep with and wake up to. I'm still not able to be completely honest about them with others around me, as you were here.
Sending her best wishes and strength, wishing you the same.

October 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSharmila

Getting a bit teary reading your sweet sentiments. Prayers for you and your beautiful Aunt Suzy. She sounds like an amazing woman. I'm sure your words and cookies are a great comfort to her.

October 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJen O.

Thoughts and prayers of peace, strength, and perseverance to your Aunt Suzy and you and your family. I empathize, as I have a loved one who has struggled with serious health issues for quite some time. I admire your courage to admit that you're scared and I applaud you for standing in solidarity with your aunt, whose love is palpable. For me, baking has a clear beginning, middle, and end -- and when life becomes incredibly ambiguous, it's the least I can do to stay sane and grounded. My heart goes out to you.

October 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterL

Such a lovely, heartfelt description of you aunt. She sounds like such an amazing lady and I'll most definitely be sending positive thoughts your way. Baking is the most wonderful sort of therapy, and these cookies look divine. Can't wait to make them soon, and immediately devour them :)

October 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCourtney

I'm so so sorry to hear about your aunt. :( My family was touched by cancer recently and it didn't end well, so I'm well aware of how devastating it can be. Hopefully your aunt will fight through this! I'm running the NYC Marathon in two weeks in support of cancer research and I'll be thinking about her at every step! Baking has definitely helped me get through some tough times, especially when they end with such delicious results as this!

October 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJoanne

I am a new comer to your blog and was so touched by this post. Know that my thoughts are with you and your aunt. It is so clear how much you care about her, and these cookies so clearly baked with love!

October 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterErin@Lawstudentswife

Well, if they came from that book, they must be amazing. Aran's book (along with yours, of course) is truly splendid. Can't wait to give these cookies a go!

October 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBrian @ A Thought For Food

Thank you for sharing your story and the recipe. Martha

October 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMartha Perry

beautiful, thoughtful, soulful, delightful. after my husband died of cancer, i discovered this film, whose wisdom and insight helped me greatly: xo

October 24, 2012 | Unregistered Commentergluttonforlife

Well.. I'm sending as much light and goodness that I can your way, miss. So sorry to hear about your wonderful aunt (and your family no doubt) going through so much right now. Her love sounds generous in your description of her, a lady to look up to for sure.

Glad you're finding a bit of peace in the kitchen though. It's a place that gives us higher ground when any kind of storm arises I find, the big and the little ones.


October 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLaura

Qu'elle belle recette de [Cookies] <3
Je la garde précieusement Noël arrive
à grand pas ! Je crois que la famille
vont adorer la saveur de ces biscuits.
Merci pour ton partage, bonne journée ^^

October 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNadi[Art]Design

What a beautiful and moving post! Aunts are truly special in their own way. I'm not one yet, but hoping one day soon!

I have a question - we are dairy free (sensitivity in our oldest daughter) and I typically sub coconut oil for the butter sources in cookies. I'm a little hesitant to just jump right into it with this recipe, though, as it calls for 1/2 cup of butter. I know with recipes that are more dependent on butter, the coconut oil swap doesn't always work so well.

Any thoughts?

October 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCourtney

Oh dear... I'm so sorry. I totally missed the second paragraph of this post (I swear... I blame my terrible internet connection) when I sent that first comment. I am sorry to hear about your aunt. My thoughts are with you and your family.

October 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBrian @ A Thought For Food

What an aunt! Though you sound like a great niece, too.

October 24, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterileana

Sara--Being able to sit with a loved one with cancer, and being okay with admitting you're frightened, is a gift. The cookies are a special bonus. Good luck. Ken

October 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKen

This beautifully written post grabbed at my heart. My mom passed away from cancer 5 years ago. When she was sick, I constantly wondered what she needed and what I could do for her. Looking back, it was quite simple - she just wanted to be held. She didn't need to hear assurances, she just wanted to feel connected to her family in the midst of her pain and struggle.

Two weeks ago, when my uncle passed away unexpectedly, I made cookies - both to help those who were grieving but also to help myself process my loss (

You and your aunt are in my thoughts. Martine

October 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMartine

I have my aunt going through a life challenging situation. Your writing is beautiful and heart felt....inspired me to bake, slow down and be sad.

October 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTina

Just be there for your Aunt Suzy That is what will matter the most. .She will feel your love and it will help you too. Remember the good times She would want that That is what I would want at my time. We give and hope at the end those who are left will remember us and appreciate that.. That would be our legacy. Love her now!

October 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCHAR SLOVENZ

Oh Sara, I am so, so sorry. Such things seem so wildly, outrageously unfair. No, not seem. Are. They ARE wildly unfair. Sending some small measure of strength, and courage, and peace to you and your Aunt Suzy. If anyone can beat this, surely it is she.


October 24, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermolly

Gorgeous looking cookies. And how wonderful to celebrate all the amazing things about your aunt here on this blog which she has so clearly inspired and supported in so many ways.

October 24, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterthelittleloaf

what a beautifully written tribute to your aunt suzy. you are a good niece!

October 25, 2012 | Unregistered Commentersusan

These look amazing! I'm a vegan so I'm going use flax instead of egg and although I have a vegan butter, I was thinking of trying pumpkin puree as a substitute. I can't wait to make these, hopefully they turn out with my substitutions!

October 25, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterf.

I cried, I smiled, I thought of my own caring relative who always remembers... Thank you for your post today. Prayers for you during this time with your Aunt Suzy being sick.

October 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

there's nothing quite like a home made treat, prepared with love. best wishes to your aunt, sara!

October 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarte

Life is tough indeed, and especially when it isn't treating our loved once as we could wish! I been thinking a lot about this post, since I know what you are going through and I really hope that everything turns out for the better!
All the best from Josephine from

October 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterA tasty love story

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