“Healthy” and “Cookie” are two words that rarely belong together. No matter how hard we try, nutritious cookies most often resemble muffins in texture: cakey and soft, not crisp or chewy.
Most of the better-for-you cookie recipes that I’ve stumbled cross use non-hydrogenated margarine instead of butter and contain oats for added fibre. These are admirable steps in the right direction, but unfortunately do not address the sugar issue. Cookies are so delectable because they are SWEET. Reducing the amount of sugar to the point where the cookie still tastes good is no easy feat.
That being said, I did a double-take when I stumbled across this recipe for oatmeal cookies in my Moosewood ‘Cooking for Health’ cookbook. For two dozen cookies, it called for 2 tablespoons of butter, 2 tablespoons of oil, and 1/3 cup brown sugar. My favourite chocolate chip cookie recipe, as a comparison, uses ½ cup butter and ¾ cup sugar for the same number of cookies. As an added bonus, the Moosewood cookie was void of white flour. It was replaced by a bit of whole wheat flour and a whole lot of rolled oats. Something must be fishy here, I thought.
My skepticism was replaced with awe when the cookies emerged from the oven. For the first time, a legitimately healthy cookie that was crisp, not cakey. And they were sweet! Thanks in part to the addition of chocolate chips and dried cranberries.
The only downside to these cookies is the very loose “dough” that results from very little butter and a lot of oats. You might wonder to yourself “how will these things ever stay together?” as your stare at the gloppy mess in your hands. Miraculously, the cookies manage to firm up when baked. To help them take shape, press the dough together as best as you can once it’s on the cookie sheet. Dipping your fingers in a bit of water works well.
Tonight I wanted to see whether this recipe could be used as a versatile oatmeal cookie base for a variety of mix’ins. The cranberries were replaced with banana chips and I omitted the nuts. The cookies turned out wonderfully, and actually held together a bit better than on previous attempts. I now know that the possibilities are endless! Any ingredient suggestions for my next cookie endeavour?
Oatmeal Cookies with Chocolate Chips, Cranberries, and Walnuts
(from Moosewood Restaurant: Cooking for Health)
2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons vegetable, olive, canola, walnut, or hazelnut oil
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
½ cup whole wheat pastry flour (regular whole wheat flour works just as well)
¼ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1-½ cups rolled oats (not quick-cooking or instant)
½ cup semisweet chocolate chips
½ cup chopped dried cranberries
½ cup chopped walnuts (or any other nut, e.g. pecan, cashew, almond, hazelnut)
- In a bowl with an electric mixer or a whisk, beat the butter and oil until well blended and smooth. Beat in the sugar and vanilla until creamy. Add the egg and beat until creamy and smooth. Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt into the bowl and stir until well blended. Stir in the oats, chocolate chips, cranberries, and nuts. The batter will be chunky.
- Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Drop a dozen rounded tablespoons of the dough, evenly spaced, on each sheet. You may need to use your fingers to clump the dough together. Press each spoonful of dough down with a fork dipped in water. The cookies will not spread so flatten well!
- Bake in a preheated 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for about 10 minutes, until the cookies are light brown around the edges. Remove the cookies and place them on a wire rack to cool. Store in a covered container.
Makes 24 cookies. Per cookie: 98 kcal, 12 g CHO, 1 g fibre, 5 g fat (2 g saturated), 2 g protein, 69 mg sodium.