Friday, February 17, 2017

Healthy Oatmeal Cookies


Cookies are amazing.  They can be made in any flavor or shape imaginable, sandwiched together and filled or topped with icing, fruit or sugary decorations.  They are easy to pack up and travel with or eat on the go.  Making cookies is easy, quick and most ingredients are readily available.  And almost everyone loves at least one kind of cookie so a variety tray is a great choice for any party.

Unfortunately, cookies are seriously unhealthy.  Most contain no vitamins or minerals, very little fiber or protein, several grams of fat and a hundred (or more!) calories.  Normal cookies have no place in a healthy diet – other than a rare treat for special occasions.

Since I refuse to limit my cookie intake, I needed to create a healthier alternative.  The obvious answer to a better cookie was to find a better base, sweetener, fat, binder and special added ingredient.  While I could have created a halfway healthy cookie with a more nutritious fat, I chose to eliminate it altogether and use banana puree for moisture (it always works as a sweetener AND a binder).  Ground oats are an excellent substitute for wheat flour because they keep the cookies chewy but are safe for those with gluten sensitivity.  Regular sugar can cause blood sugar spikes so a lower glycemic sweetener like honey is better for healthy cookies.  And raisins (or any dried fruit for that matter) make a welcome textural and flavor addition and are far better nutritionally than chocolate chips.

Healthy Oatmeal Cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 C rolled oats, roughly ground
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 C raisins
  • 2 ripe bananas, pureed
  • 2 T honey or maple syrup or agave syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Equipment

  • bowl
  • spatula
  • measuring cups
  • measuring spoons
  • blender or food processor
  • cookie baking sheet
  • parchment paper
  • 1” cookie scoop (optional)
  • spoon or off-set spatula (optional)
  • baking racks


Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  In a blender or food processor, grind the rolled oats until they are the consistency of flour.  If there are larger pieces or some whole oats left that is okay as they add texture.  Pour the oat flour into a bowl and add peeled bananas to the blender/food processor.  Puree until smooth.  Add these to the ground oats along with the baking powder, sweetener of your choice, vanilla, cinnamon, salt and raisins.


Using a spatula, fold ingredients together until combined in a stiff dough.  You can use your hands rather than a spatula but this dough is VERY sticky – I would recommend using disposable gloves.


NOTE:  If you do not have a blender or food processor (or if you’re like me and hate cleaning both of those) you can smash the banana with a potato masher or a fork and purchase pre-ground oat flour or even use the whole oats (the cookies will be VERY chewy).

Using a scoop or your hands, portion out a 1” round ball of dough onto a parchment lined cookie sheet.  Continue until all the dough is portioned out.  These cookies do not spread as normal cookies due because of the lack of fat and sugar so you do not have to leave more than an inch between them.  One sheet pan should be enough for all the cookies in a single batch.

Also because these do not spread, you need to press them down for more of a cookie shape.  Oil the back of a spoon or spatula and press each ball of dough down until it’s about 1/2" thick.  You may need to re-oil the spoon because this dough is so sticky.  You can of course use your fingers to press down the cookies but again, I recommend using disposable gloves that are oiled to prevent sticking.


Bake the cookies for 20-25.  They will not brown much so err on the lower end of cooking to prevent the cookies from drying out.  Remove and cool to room temperature, then place in airtight container.  This recipe will make approximately a dozen and a half cookies.

These cookies are low fat, low calorie, gluten free, dairy free and egg free (and vegan if you use maple or any syrup other than honey).  They also contain fiber and protein, both of which can be increased if you chose to add nuts or nutrient-dense seeds like chia.

Unlike regular cookies, these can be enjoyed every day.  Sometimes I grab a couple for breakfast if I’m in a hurry or a snack when I get the mid-afternoon munchies.  They’re delicious without the guilt of regular cookies or the scary frankenfood ingredients of store-bought “diet” treats.