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.
I look for ways to be creative in the kitchen, and that often includes adding intensely flavored ingredients. In the case of the oatmeal cookie, I included moist cherry-infused dried prunes. Or, you could use the orange or lemon-infused ones to impart those flavors into the cookie.
Almond extract works nicely with the cherry-infused ones and would work well with dried peaches or apricots. The apricots can turn a plain oatmeal cookie into an Amaretto-like treat using chopped whole almonds in the dough and a layer of thinly sliced almonds underneath each cookie as it bakes. The almonds toast while baking, adding more crunch to the texture and flavor to the cookie. Orange extract or lemon extracts could replace the almond extract along with the addition of orange or lemon zest.
There are many creative ways to perk up the flavor while adding healthy goodies to an oatmeal cookie. I hope I've sparked some ideas for you to make an oatmeal cookie taste better while also making it healthier. I haven't even mentioned the possibilities of including chocolate. I'm thinking Nutella for some of the fat and hazelnuts. (I'll have to clear that one with our dietitian, Becky Varner, though.)
The accompanying recipe is a result of a search for ways to make a healthier oatmeal cookie. The finished cookie has less processed sugar and less fat from butter. It uses olive oil or grape seed oil for half of the butter. Half the sugar of traditional oatmeal cookies with oat flour, oat bran and whole-wheat flour in lieu of white flour makes a super oat cookie.
Sherrel's Double Oat-Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Redux
(Makes 36 to 44 cookies, depending on size.)
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
• 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.