Five Ingredients for Healthy Baking and Vegan Health Bar Cookies
Summer is upon us which means travel, picnics, days at the pool, and lots of kid time. When you’re planning snacks for your little ones, why not take your favorite recipes and bump up the nutrition? It’s easy to do by adding or substituting nutrient dense ingredients when making cookies, granola, or cakes.
Here are some of my go-to ingredients for making snacks healthier:
Nuts: Walnuts are my favorite nut to include because of their omgea-3 fatty acid content. They also protect against heart disease and have anti-inflammatory properties.
Dried Fruit: Fresh fruit is more nutritionally dense than dried fruit. I like to include dried fruit in my baked goods though because they add sweetness and flavor naturally. Any sweetening agent can be decreased by 10 – 25%.
Applesauce or Banana Puree: Fruit purees adds moisture to baked goods and can replace up to 25%, and sometimes more, of the fat in a recipe. You can decrease the butter or oil without sacrificing texture and flavor. Any fruit puree will work but I like applesauce for it’s neutral flavor. Banana is an all-around great addition to so many desserts so I use it regularly.
Seeds: Seeds aren’t used nearly enough in baking. Sesame and flax seeds both contain ligans, which can help reduce cholesterol. Sesame seeds also contain copper, calcium, iron, and zinc. Other seeds to use in baking include chia, sunflower, and pumpkin. Seeds, like nuts, can be used whole or ground into flour.
Beans: Most people are surprised when I serve them a dessert made from beans. Why not? They contain fiber, folate, and iron. Extra fiber helps slow down digestion and prevent blood sugar spikes. I also like to use bean flours when I bake for the same reason.
These vegan Health Bar Cookies are packed with sesame seeds and use raisins to bump up the sweetness.
Health Bar Cookies
makes 8 big cookies
1/2 cup organic raisins
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1 1/4 cup Amy’s Basic Flour Blend
1 1/4 cup gluten-free rolled oats
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup thawed frozen apple juice concentrate
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with a silpat or parchment paper.
Cover the raisins with the water in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat in the microwave for 1 1/2 minutes and set aside to soak for at least 10 minutes. Drain the raisins and reserve the soaking water. Chop the raisins coarsely.
Heat a large saute pan over medium heat and add the sesame seeds. Toast by stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until they begin to turn golden brown and are fragrant, about 8 – 10 minutes. Remove from heat.
Whisk together the flour blend, oats, cinnamon, xanthan gum, baking powder, salt, and toasted sesame seeds. Put the thawed apple juice concentrate in a 2-cup wet measure. Add the reserved raisin water and 2 tablespoons oil. If necessary, add water to equal a total of 1 1/8 cups liquid. Add the raisins to the dry ingredients and then stir in the wet ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for 20 – 30 minutes.
Use a spring-release ice cream scoop (yes, a big one) to evenly portion the batter onto the cookie sheet. Use moist fingertips to flatten the cookies to about 1/2 inch thick. Bake for 25 minutes, or until cookies are lightly golden brown. Let cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 2 days, then individually wrap and freeze the leftovers.
adapted from Fruit-Sweet and Sugar-Free by Chef Janice Feuer
You’ll also want to try these healthy recipes:
Flourless, Grain-Free Chocolate Torte with ‘Powdered Sugar’ – This dense, moist torte is made with garbanzo beans and sprinkled with finely ground coconut instead of powdered sugar.
Quinoa Raisin Cookies – Instead of oats, these cookies use quoina flakes and the raisins naturally boost the sweetness.
Chocolate Walnut Flourless, Grain-Free Brownies – Black beans stand in for flour in this recipe. They’re also packed with walnuts for some healthy fat.
Magic Cookie Power Bars – Instead of sweetened condensed milk, these cookie bars use chia seeds, dates, and almond milk.
Chunky Banana Flax Muffins – Packed with pureed bananas and flax meal, these muffins will help you start your day the right way.
How do you make recipes healthier?
Amy Green is a co-founder of The Balanced Platter and the founder of Simply Sugar & Gluten-Free and the best selling book, Simply Sugar & Gluten-Free: 180 Easy & Delicious Recipes You Can Make in 20 Minutes or Less. She is also a co-founder of Nourished, the only specialty food blogger conference.
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