I have a bit of an issue with baked goods. One might actually be more inclined to call my 'issue" a minor addiction, as my mind seems to focus on one track when I find myself in a room that also harbors some form of baked treat. Like a moth to a flame I am drawn to whatever chocolate-y, vanilla-y, fruity, fluffy, cakey, crumbly goodness my eyes or nose pick out. It takes an immense amount of willpower to resist the temptation of dessert no matter the time of day, and there are certain months of the year when what little willpower I have takes off on vacation and leaves me defenseless to the siren song of sweets.
Those months would be November and December, when it is nearly impossible to take ten steps without encountering a variety of cookie, cake or brownie that somebody is offering up. I brought the temptation upon myself even earlier last year, filling the month of October with various types of pie in preparation for the upcoming holidays. I grew accustomed to dessert every night until finally, in the first week of the new year my practical self, the side of me that recognized that my pants were getting a little *ahem* snug in certain areas, intervened and told my over-indulgent self to lay off the 'goods.
Not one to jump on board with any overly restrictive, treats-prohibiting, quit-cold-turkey diets, I recognized the fact that I simply needed to find some healthier options to satiate my cravings for sweets rather than eliminating them from my life completely. I browsed the archives of Bella Eats' leaner, more fitness-focused days and came across this recipe for banana date bread*, an old favorite and one that I'd nearly forgotten about. In no time my kitchen smelled of baking banana and cinnamon as I pulled a loaf from the oven. Spread with a bit of almond butter and paired with fresh fruit it served as breakfast for Brian and I several mornings in a row.
Inspired by my first healthy baking activity in months, I decided that afternoon to start experimenting with a new type of cookie. Or, rather, a granola bar masquerading as a cookie. That was my hope, anyway, to create a cookie so chock-full of good-for-me ingredients like oat bran, rolled oats, dried fruit and whole grain flour, without the less desirable ingredients such as butter and refined sugar, that I'd be able to eat several of them for breakfast. Or for a snack before my new workout routine. Or right before I go to bed while I'm waiting for the dogs to come in from outside. You get the idea.
What resulted is a soft, chewy cookie that IS full of delicious and hearty ingredients, minus butter, refined sugar and even eggs. The whole grains provide a flavorful backdrop for the dried cherries and dark chocolate that punctuate each bite. I made them three times within two weeks, tweaking the recipe until I was satisfied with the final result. The photographs in this post are actually of the second batch - the final batch saw the addition of a bit more baking soda and the resulting cookies weren't as flat as those pictured below, so don't be surprised if yours look a little different.
In the end, I don't know that there is actually any caloric difference between these cookies and your standard variety. But I can assure you that they are delicious, and any calorie savings I might have seen were made up for when I reached for another cookie. And another. I just can't help myself. I've decided to start running again instead.
Chocolate Cherry Granola Cookies
(dairy free, egg free, naturally sweetened) adapted from Sweet & Natural Baking
makes 20 cookies
- 1-3/4 cups spelt flour (if you can't find spelt flour, use white whole wheat flour instead and only 1 tsp of baking soda)
- 1-1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup oat bran
- 1/2 cup rolled oats
- 3/4 cup liquid fruit juice concentrate (I use FruitSweet, which I find at Whole Foods)**
- 6 tbsp canola oil
- 1-1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 1/2 cup unsweetened dried cherries
- Position oven racks in center and top third of oven. Preheat to 350*. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Sift the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt together in a large bowl. Add the oat bran and rolled oats and whisk to combine. Make a well in the center.
- Whisk the fruit juice concentrate, canola oil and vanilla together in another bowl. Pour into the well and mix together with a wooden spoon. Stir in the chocolate chips and the dried cherries. Cover and refrigerate until firm enough to scoop, about 1 hour.
- Using about 3 tbsp dough per cookie, transfer the dough to the baking sheets and space 2-inches apart. Bake the cookies until the edges are lightly browned and they feel firm in the center, 12-15 minutes. Halfway through baking, switch the position of the baking sheets. Cool the cookies for 2 minutes on the baking sheets, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
* A note about that bread - I substituted a 1/2-cup of fat-free vanilla greek yogurt for the applesauce and it was absolutely divine. Try it!
** The third time I made these cookies I only had a 1/2-cup of FruitSweet left, so I substituted a 1/4-cup of pure maple syrup for the remaining sweetener. It was delicious, and I loved the extra flavor added to the cookies. If you can't find liquid fruit juice concentrate, I'd try substituting maple syrup for the full amount of sweetener. Maybe leave out the vanilla though. And then tell me how they turn out!