It happens every year. The holidays arrive and as soon as Thanksgiving is done, all attention turns to baking, particularly of cookies.
I try not to do much of it myself. Baking tends to be a bit fussy for my whatever-however-goes approach to cooking.
Trouble is, my resident 9-year-old believes it is his duty to remind me at every moment that a December without cookies is like a stocking full of coal.
Not as though he has any lack of cookies in his life; the onslaught of holiday parties presents endless platters of treats for him to sample.
But it got me wondering whether I could find a way to let him indulge more regularly without sugar-bombing him all month.
In fact, if I had a fast and easy drop cookie that was moderately healthy, I’d even be willing to entertain it as a lunch indulgence.
But I set a rule for myself. No oat bran-flax seed-hemp flour-soy nut concoctions that taste like cardboard. A lunch cookie has to look and taste like a treat, even if it’s a healthier treat. Otherwise, it’s not a treat (and probably won’t get eaten).
It turned out to be easier than I expected. I started with a basic drop cookie recipe, but substituted white whole-wheat flour for regular white flour. White whole-wheat flour has the same nutrition and fiber as conventional whole wheat, but a lighter taste and texture. In most recipes it can be substituted 1:1 for all-purpose flour.
Next, I loaded up on oats! Healthy, chewy, delicious.
But I ditched the butter. Butter is yummy, but it isn’t essential (nor is the saturated fat that comes with it). Substituting a vegetable-based oil isn’t just healthier, it also produces a better texture in this style of cookie.
Next, I cut the sugar. Well, at least one form of it. Sugar is fine, but I prefer that it come from a source that has fiber and nutrients (granulated sugar has neither). My solution? Unsweetened dried apricots. I pureed them and added them with the liquid ingredients. It was a delicious addition, adding not just sweetness, but a wonderful tender texture, too.
Add some raisins and a handful of mini chocolate chips (Hey! It’s got to be a treat!), and the result was a cookie I could live with packing in my son’s lunch.
Lunch-friendly (and healthier) Raisin Oatmeal Drop Cookies
Start to finish: 45 minutes
Makes 70 cookies
3/4 cup canola, safflower, or sunflower oil
3/4 cup orange juice
1/2 cup unsweetened dried apricots
2 cups white whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup golden raisins
3/4 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
1. Heat the oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with kitchen parchment.
2. In a blender, combine the oil, orange juice, eggs, and apricots. Puree until very smooth and creamy looking. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to combine the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and oats. Add the oil-apricot mixture. Mix well, then mix in the raisins and chocolate chips.
4. Working in batches, use a tablespoon to drop the dough on the prepared baking sheet, leaving about 1 inch between cookies. Use the back of a fork to slightly flatten the cookies.
5. Bake for 10 to 11 minutes, or until just starting to brown at the edges but still soft. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.