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Taming the Cookie Monster
- Categorized in: Healthy Recipes
A lot of people think good nutrition involves self-deprivation. They think in terms of all the things they are going to have to give up in order to be healthy. That attitude makes it difficult for many people to even begin to start improving their diets. It's even harder with kids, who are bombarded with sugar-laden junk food in commercials, at friend's homes and even at school.
It is much easier to transition from a less healthy version of something to a healthier version of the same food. The issue is nutritional density. What makes junk food “junk” is the fact that it is loaded with “empty” calories. See, our body's require certain nutrients to process carbohydrates and fats efficiently. Refined sugar, processed oils and fats, and refined flours are lacking in minerals, vitamins, antioxidants and other nutrients the body needs to effectively utilize the energy-producing calories from the starches, sugars and fats.
Besides, while some people may have the self-discipline to eat nothing but raw foods, or go to similar dietary extremes, most of us aren't capable of being that dedicated to a special dietary regime. Furthermore, it's hard to be social when one is that strict about nutrition, unless one is really blessed to have a circle of equally dedicated friends. Food is a very social issue.
In addition, the stress that can be created by trying to deprive oneself of foods one loves can lead to feelings of self-deprivation that ultimately lead to rounds of bingeing. When changing one's diet, it's a good idea to start with a cleansing program and a restricted diet for a temporary period of time to clean out the body and “reset” the body's hormones and chemical messengers. After that, however, it's a good idea to allow oneself a healthy “treat” periodically. The secret is to enjoy it while eating it, not to wolf it down with feelings of guilt.
As for me, one of my favorite treats is a good cookie. (After all, Cookie Monster was my favorite character on Sesame Street.) Once I learned to make wonderful tasting cookies from wholesome natural ingredients, I found that I tended to eat less because they were more nutritionally filling or satisfying. Also, as I learned to make natural treats I completely lost the taste for store-bought junk. Instead of feeling like I was depriving myself, I willingly turned down what I considered to be inferior quality food for something that tasted much better to me and was far more satisfying. It's much easier to be a food “snob” than it is to try to fight with your cravings and practice self-deprivation. yourself.
So, I've become terribly spoiled by my own baking. If I'm going to enjoy a cookie, I at least want it to supply some better nutrition than the hydrogenated fat, white flour, refined sugar, chemical-laden cookies at the supermarket. So, I like to make my own cookies with whole grains, natural sweeteners and organic ingredients. I started off using some recipes I found in books, but lately, I've been taking “junk food” cookie recipes and “converting” them to healthier versions.
Before I share some of my favorite recipes, I want to provide some basic information about ingredient choices.
In place of white flour, I mostly use whole grain flours. I started off making cookies with whole wheat pastry flour. Pastry flour is made from soft white wheat, which has a much lower gluten content than hard wheat. This makes for a lighter texture in the finished product. I've also experimented with other grains. I've made very good cookies (and other baked goods) with a mixture of equal parts regular whole wheat flour, brown rice flour and oat flour.
Of course, many people are allergic to wheat, and wheat is an avoid for some blood types, too. So, it is possible to just use rice and oat flour combined. (I think the combination tastes better than either one by itself.) Recently I started using spelt flour and have found it to work very well in making cookies. One of the ladies at Leavett's Kitchen Center here in St. George told me that white spelt flour still contains the germ (which has most of the nutritional value of the grain), so I've also used some white spelt flour. I've had very satisfactory results with a mixture of half whole spelt flour and half white spelt flour.
I own a grain mill, so I can grind my own fresh flours. Since much of the nutritional value of whole grains deteriorates within a few days of grinding the grain, you'll produce much more nutritious (and better tasting) baked goods if you'll invest in a grain mill and grind your own fresh flours. I don't always take the time to do this, but when I do, the finished product is much better.
When I was first transitioning to a better diet, I completely gave up using refined sugar and went completely to using raw, unpasteurized honey. I am positive that I had a horrible case of Candida because I had been given antibiotics regularly as a child and teenager (due to a generally sickly nature) and my immune system had gotten weaker and weaker. I know that chemists have told me that honey and refined sugar are 99% chemically identical, but I can tell you that there is a big difference between the two.
When I gave up refined sugar and started using honey I felt like my brain was emerging from a fog. I could think more clearly. My immune system was stronger. I craved sweets less often. The difference was remarkable. Raw, unprocessed honey is a very healing food, and a perfect food for sugarholics and Candida junkies who have a sweet tooth and need to transition away from the sugar-laden junk.
Most honey sold in the grocery stores isn't the quality I'm used to. An Idaho beekeeper, who gave my wife and I a bucket of the most beautiful, unprocessed creamy textured honey I've ever eaten, told me the following about honey. He said that commercial honey is diluted with tap water and pasteurized at to keep it runny.
He also told me that most beekeepers will feed their bees sugar water to increase production. Top quality honey will always crystalize to an even texture. The best honey for eating crystalizes to a whitish, amber color and has a creamy texture. Good quality honey will be amber in color and will crystalize with a fine texture. The more sugar water the beekeepers have fed to the bees, the more coarse the crystal structure in the honey will be. Honey that contains big sugar crystals is not good quality honey.
This chemically altered honey doesn't appear to have the same healing properties as the pure natural stuff. I look for good quality honey, preferably from local beekeepers, that has been warmed enough to be filtered and has not been diluted or pasteurized. I like buy it in 5 gallon buckets. I dig it out of the bucket with a heavy metal spoon and put it in glass containers. When I need to “melt” some for use, I simply heat up a pan of hot water on the stove, and put the jar in the hot water.
A few parting notes about honey. The flours the bees gather the nectar from determine the flavor of the honey. Alfalfa or clover honey have a light flavor and are good for baking, but avoid stronger flavored honeys unless you want that flavor in the finished product. Also, if you are substituting honey for sugar in a recipe, remember that honey is sweeter than sugar. 3/4 of a cup of honey will replace 1 cup of sugar. (That's good by itself, same sweet taste, fewer calories). Also, you may need a little extra flour to make up for the water in the honey. (1 Tablespoon per cup will probably be enough, and this may not be necessary if you're also converting the recipe from white flour to whole grain flour, since whole grains require a little extra moisture anyway.)
I also use other natural sweeteners, too, such as maple syrup. I look for a dark amber syrup (because it has more nutrients). The light amber, grade A, maple syrup is more sugary and contains less vitamins and minerals. The lower the grade and the darker the syrup, the more nutritious it is. I think it's more flavorful, too.
Raw sugar is another option. Sucanat® is whole dried sugar cane juice, so it contains all of the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients found in the original sugar cane. It works well for baking, but I find it harder to cream together with the butter than other forms of raw sugar. I've had good results with Wholesome Sweetener's Organic Dark Brown Sugar, but my favorite is Organic Exotic Sugar by Paisanitos. It has a higher nutritional content than dark brown sugar and I really like the flavor and texture for baking (it creams very nicely with the butter).
I never make cookies with shortening or that colored shortening called margarine. No plastic fats for me. Butter is my choice. Organic is good, but the key to good butter is freshness. Look for the freshest butter you can find, and keep it away from other flavors in the fridge. Unsalted butter is better for baking, too.
When you cream butter and honey together to make a batch of cookies, you'll understand the meaning of Isaiah's metaphor, “Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know how to refuse the evil and choose the good.” After tasting such goodness it becomes much easier to refuse the “evil” of the margarine/refined sugar base of most cookies, and choose the “good” of healthier ingredients.
I also chose other high quality ingredients for my cookies. I use Real Salt, which is mined from an ancient salt dome in Redmond, Utah and is free of modern chemical pollution. It also has a high content of trace minerals. I use natural vanilla extract, Organic cocoa powder, free range or organic eggs, fresh nuts, etc.
For chocolate chips, I use malt sweetened chocolate chips (which I usually buy in bulk at the health food store), or a packaged natural chocolate chip. I've used Sunspire® chips, but Dagoba® is now making chocolate chips and they make some of the best organic chocolate I've tasted. Sunspire also started making natural peanut butter chips and white chocolate chips this year, which has added a lot of fun to my cookie making. Sometimes, if I want to be a little indulgent, I'll buy white and semi-sweet chocolate in solid bars and chop it into big chunks to make some really decadent cookies.
For all of the cookie recipes preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cream the sweeteners and butter together by mixing them with a hand or stand mixer until they form a creamy mixture. Add other liquid ingredients and mix until smooth.
Mix dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt, etc.) in a separate bowl and then add them to the liquid ingredients. Mix these only until the flour is thoroughly moistened. Over-mixing makes denser cookies.
Add nuts, chocolate chips or chunks, etc. last and stir in by hand with a large wooden or metal spoon.
Grease cookie sheets with non-stick cooking spray. I like to form my cookies with a 1” to 1-1/2” ice cream scoop. (I like big cookies.) For smaller cookies use tablespoons of dough. Put cookies and sheets and bake as per instructions.
I'm not claiming that these cookies are low calorie or anything. They're all pretty rich. What I am saying is that they are more nutritionally dense than your regular cookies. When you eat more nutritionally dense foods, your body gets more of what it is needing (nutrients) which means you have a greater feeling of satisfaction and tend to eat less.
Over time, you'll find that your cravings for the less healthy versions will diminish and eventually go away. Good food is addictive! So, get addicted and enjoy a healthier version of something you love.
Healthier Cookies (The Recipes)
Triple Chip Chocolate Cookies
I found a great recipe for a chocolate chip cookies, which I converted to more natural ingredients. It has become my favorite chocolate chip cookie.
- 1/2 cup butter
- 3/4 cup raw sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/3 cup cocoa powder
- 1 large egg
- 1 cup whole grain flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup chopped macadamias, walnuts or pecans
- 3/4 cup each of Sunspire® white chocolate chips, semi-sweet chocolate chips and peanut butter chips.*
*You can also use just white or dark chocolate chips if you prefer. I've also used chopped up chunks of white chocolate and dark chocolate with macadamia nuts. Use about 2 to 2-1/2 cups of chips or chunks. Be creative.
Directions: Form the cookies into balls about 1-1/2 inches in diameter and flatten slightly on a greased cookie sheet. I use an ice cream scoop. Bake for 10-12 minutes.
Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies or Bars
Here's another chocolate chip cookie recipe that I sometimes make into chocolate chip cookie bars. It's good, too.
- 1 cup butter
- 1 cup honey
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla
- 1-1/2 cups rolled oats
- 1-1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or other whole grain flour)
- 1/8 tsp. salt
- 1 Tablespoon lecithin granules (optional, but they improve the texture, especially when making the cookies into bars.)
- 1 cup coconut
- 1 cup malt sweetened chocolate chips
- 1 cup chopped walnuts
Directions: After mixing, allow the mixture to sit for 20-30 minutes. Drop small scoops onto cookie sheets and bake at 350 for about 10 minutes. Allow the cookies to sit on the cookie sheet for 5-10 minutes after baking so they can set up (otherwise they are crumbly). If baking as bars, press cookie dough into a 9x13 baking dish sprayed with non-stick cooking spray and bake for 20-25 minutes. Allow to cool before cutting up the bars.
Honey Maple Oatmeal Cookies
This is a cookie I really like. It is good tasting and reasonably nutritious. I've added peanut butter chips to this recipe and that turned out great, too.
- 1 cup butter
- 1/3 cup maple syrup
- 1/3 cup honey
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1 cup whole grain flour
- 1 cup chopped walnuts (I often add more)
- 2-3/4 cups rolled oats
Directions: Make cookies about 1-1/2 inches in diameter and about 1/2 inch thick. Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes.
Pecan Peanut Butter Sandies
- 3/4 cup butter
- 5 Tablespoons maple syrup
- 2 Tablespoons honey
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1-1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
- 1 cup chopped pecans (I often use a cup and a half because I love nuts)
- 1 cup Sunspire® peanut butter chips (optional, the cookies are good without these, but I like them even better with)
Directions: Make cookies about 1-1/2 inches in diameter and 1/2 inch thick. Bake at 350 degrees for about 18-20 minutes.
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1 egg
- 2 cups coconut
- 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (or other whole grain flour)
Directions: Drop onto greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 for about 12 minutes.