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Healthy Makeover: Nonna's Italian Lemon Cookies

Our grandma is arguably the best cook we know. She's a Sicilian immigrant and has a life-long repertoire of authentic, AMAZING Italian recipes and secret sauces. Many of her recipes aren't written down and have only been passed down by spending time in the kitchen and learning first-hand. One of those, are her famous lemon twist cookies.

They are melt in your mouth, soft, slightly sweet, and seriously addicting. When we come over to her house, we check the cookie jar hoping she made a big batch (yes! She actually kept the cookies in a cookie jar.).

So, a few years ago we sat down with her and had her tell us the recipe. Although we can typically understand her with no problem, her English is quite broken, and trying to get accurately record this recipe was a challenge. As many great cooks, she doesn't measure very often. She judges things by sight, taste, and smell, adding things until it's "right." And like so many classic Italians-- her recipes always yield HUGE amounts of food. This one being no different, her original recipe yields FIVE FREAKIN POUNDS of these to-die-for cookies.

Ok, so once we managed to figure out a written recipe, we made the real-deal ourselves. Three of us made half of the original recipe and it took us hours. How in the heck did our little 4 foot 9, 80 year old nonna do this on her own?!

Aside from the immense effort and man hours required for her original recipe, they call for butter, Crisco lard (no lie), and a descent amount of white flour and refined sugar.

There's a time and a place to indulge in the authentic, super bad-for-you versions of things without thinking or caring that it's "bad for you," BUT, when you crave these things on the regular, you gotta find a healthier, easier version to make!

Luckily, we managed to make a version that's similar in flavor-- slightly sweet with the right amount of zesty lemon, and they are also pretty similar in texture-- light, fluffy, and chewy.

These don't exactly stand up to our grandma's version, but they are super delicious, and we managed to make them gluten free, dairy free, and refined sugar free. Added bonus? They take minimal time and effort to make.

Ingredients: yields 12-14 cookies

1/4 C grass-fed ghee (we used Fourth & Heart)

1 Tbsp coconut oil

1/3 C coconut sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

juice of 1 lemon

zest of 1-2 lemons (preference on how lemon-y you want 'em!)

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp pink Himalayan salt

1 1/3 C almond flour

1/4 C coconut flour


1. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the gee, coconut oil, and sugar (preferable to use an electric mixer but this will work and has been tried in a Vitamix on the lowest setting).

2. Mix in the egg, vanilla extract, lemon juice, and lemon zest.

3. In a separate bowl mix the remaining ingredients, then add the dry mixture gradually to the creamed mixture, mixing in between.

4. Once everything is completely combined, form the dough into one large bowl and let it chill in the fridge for 20-30 minutes.

5. Preheat the oven to 350.

6. Remove the dough from the fridge, form into balls, and place on a greased baking sheet or with parchment paper.

7. Bake for 13-15 minutes (We did 14 minutes then removed them and left them on the baking sheet to cool. We find this makes for a soft, chewy texture)

3. In a separate bowl

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