Sherrel Jones: Don't divorce cookies for your health, get them in shape

Sherrel Jones shares tips for helping cookies turn the corner for your health.
BY SHERREL JONES Published: August 13, 2013
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Redoing recipes is inevitable for the home cook, whether figuring out ways to enhance flavor or adjusting to conform to the family's health needs.

As we grow older, health concerns outweigh flavor more and more. So, rather than live a life without oatmeal-raisin cookies, which are loaded with sugar and butter or shortening, I went to work to bump up the fiber, reduce the sugar and improve fat content.

Anytime I can use healthy oil in place of butter or shortening without sacrificing flavor, I go for it. An oatmeal cookie could probably use all grape seed oil in place of all butter, but I only substituted half oil and half butter in this recipe. I also have used olive oil without any appreciable change in the cookie.

The other big change comes with the sugar. Traditional oatmeal cookie recipes have half a cup or more of both brown sugar and white sugar. That one was easy for me, as the brown sugar with its molasses infusion packs more flavor that is especially nice with the oats and spices. I do not firmly pack it into the half-cup measure, only pressing it loosely into the half-cup measure before adding to the butter and oil mixture.

Fiber and flavor additions include raisins, nuts, cherry-infused prunes and oat bran, along with whole-wheat and oat flour. Dietitians and nutrition science folks stress the importance of including fiber in our daily diet. Nuts and seeds, whole grains, vegetables and fruits go a long way toward incorporating healthy fiber into our regimen.

For years, I have added small amounts of oat bran to breads, granola and meatloaf to boost our intake. I don't count every gram of fiber except when I am buying a loaf of bread, then I opt for those that have more fiber per slice. It can be a bit complicated to figure out how much fiber is contained in our daily intake, so I just look for ways to incorporate plenty of foods that contain a generous amount.

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Sherrel's Double Oat-Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Redux

(Makes 36 to 44 cookies, depending on size.)

¼ cup softened unsalted butter

¼ cup olive oil or grapeseed oil

½ cup brown sugar, loosely packed

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon almond extract

1 egg or egg substitute equivalent

1 teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ cup oat flour

½ cup white whole-wheat flour

¼ cup oat bran

1½ cups old-fashioned oats

½ cup golden raisins

½ cup coarsely chopped cherry-infused prunes

2/3 cup walnuts

Additional oats for preparing baking sheet

• Adjust oven rack to position just above center of oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sprinkle additional oats onto prepared baking sheet. (Use butter wrapper to lightly grease baking sheet or fit it with parchment or silicone mat.)

• Combine softened butter and sugar, beating well. Add extracts and egg, beating until fluffy.

• In a separate bowl, combine baking powder, salt, spices, flours and oat bran, stirring until well-blended. Add flour mixture to creamed mixture, mixing just until incorporated.

• Add raisins, prunes and walnuts, beating on low until evenly distributed into dough.

• Drop dough by teaspoons onto oat-sprinkled prepared baking sheet.

• Bake for 10 minutes until just golden brown.

Cooking notes: Add any remaining toasted oats from baking sheet to your morning cereal or granola. For flatter, sweeter cookies, beat in ½ cup mashed overripe banana with butter, oil and sugar mixture. Try pitted ripe sweet cherries cut in half and/or chunks of fresh apple. Other dried fruit combos such as chopped dried California apricots or peaches with almonds in lieu of walnuts.

SOURCE: Sherrel Jones

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