I have been trying to get away from dessert recipes…really, I have! But the little peanut in my belly seems to have quite the sweet tooth, and I have been wanting dessert all of the time lately. In an effort to get my sweet fix from something moderately healthy, I decided to try out a new recipe for healthier oatmeal cookies. I have tried a few others in the past (like these and these) but have not yet found anything to blow me away. But my latest experiment has a ton of potential! I made the first batch a few weeks ago following the recipe exactly…the result was a tasty cookie that was very cakey, not really what you’d expect from an oatmeal cookie. There just seemed to be too much liquid, and as a result I ended up with more of a batter than a dough. But the flavor was so good I decided it was worth trying again with some tweaks.
You may have noticed that many of my baked goods include liquid sweeteners (e.g., honey, agave, maple syrup), but this is not a requirement for me. Despite the insistance of some in the health food space that such sweeteners are more natural and contain more nutrients, my general perspective is that sugar is sugar, and we shouldn’t be eating enough of it to get any benefit from the small amounts of nutrients anyway! Plus, brown and granulated sugar are cheaper and easier to work with than their liquid counterparts, so I thought a cookie recipe would be a great opportunity to make the substitution. Theoretically you need to add liquid to a recipe if using sugar instead of honey, but since this recipe was so liquidy in the first place, the only thing I did to compensate was to increase the baking temperature. Other tweaks include using whole wheat pastry flour, bumping up the vanilla, and using chocolate chips instead of the fruit and/or nuts (I just can’t resist!). The resulting cookie is soft and chewy and delicious, but not too sweet – exactly what I was going for!
Another motivation I had for trying to make this recipe work is that I wanted an alternative to my Wholesome Monster Cookies. I think those cookies are great, and they get rave reviews, but when it comes down to it I really don’t like peanut or other nut butters! I have tried so hard, but it’s just less enjoyable to me so I wanted another cookie recipe that I would look forward to but was not too much of a guilty pleasure. Plus, with so many kids out there having nut allergies, I thought it would be helpful to have a nut-free option. Which means despite the success of the recipe below, my next stop will be to try to pack some more healthy ingredients in, like flax meal, wheat germ, or coconut, just to bump up the nutrient level. Stay tuned for the results of my experiments!
Healthier Oatmeal Cookies
adapted from Whole Grain Gourmet
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 3/4 cups rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon (optional; I did not include when using chocolate chips)
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (optional; I did not include when using chocolate chips)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2-1 cup add-ins of your choice (I used 2/3 cup dark chocolate chunks; could also use raisins/dried fruit and/or walnuts/other chopped nuts)
In a large bowl, whisk together all of the dry ingredients (flour through spices). In a medium bowl, whisk together all of the wet ingredients (sugar through vanilla). Pour the wet mixture into the dry, add the mix-ins, and mix with a spoon until combined.
Place dough in the refrigerator to chill for 30-60 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Scoop cookies by the tablespoon onto baking sheet and press down slightly to flatten (cookies will not spread while baking).
Bake for 10 minutes, until bottoms of cookies are light brown – you will just start to see some brown around the bottom edge. Do not overcook! Leave cookies on baking sheet for about 1 minute after removing from the oven and then move to a cooling rack.
Makes 27 cookies (using 1 tablespoon scoop)