Aug 29, 2013

Nature Cookies

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In case anyone’s counting, we’re ten days into the kindergarten year and I’m still holding strong to my That Mom intentions, all on the quest for healthy homemade lunchbox treats and what not. This is three days longer than I thought I would last. This could become a real, ongoing thing, people. I just signed up for a PTA committee this morning. It’s getting serious, is what I’m saying.

Anyway! The inspiration for this particular batch of cookies went beyond producing a little something special for Little C’s lunchbox. These cookies were the pick to fulfill the need for birthday treats to bring to her classmates. Because my baby girl turns FIVE this week. Gah! (I’d like to say I just! Cannot! Believe it!–but while that is somewhat true, a side-by-side comparison of photos featuring my undereye area from pre-children and post-children would reveal that my first born is indeed, AT LEAST, five years old.)

Can we talk about classroom birthday treats for a sec? Because the world has changed drastically since I was of bring-birthday-treats-to-school age. I seem to remember a whole lot of cupcakes made from boxed cake mix and canned Funfetti frosting when I was in school. And they were glorious. But that is no longer the case for school-aged children around these parts. The call now is for “healthy” treats to share on birthdays, and most parents have to be very, verrrry careful that said treats are free of allergens like gluten, nuts, egg, etc. Because who wants to be responsible for covering another person’s kid in hives or sending them into anaphylactic shock? Additionally, what parent wants to be the jerk that sugars up 22 kindergartners and sticks the poor teacher with the fall out?

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So I get it. I totally do. I might sometimes mourn the loss of Funfetti in schools (and Trapper Keepers and jelly bracelets and canvas Esprit bags), but I get it. Healthy treats for birthday celebrations at school, and then pelt the children with Funfetti at an actual birthday party the following weekend and let their parents provide the sugar crash straitjackets. That’s what’s happening.

I toyed with the idea of going with something prepackaged and storebought for Little C to bring to class (extra allergen insurance, doncha know), but then I found out that no one in her class has a food allergy that’s difficult to work around, and that there’s no policy at her school requiring commercially-produced treats like at other schools. And then! In a magical twist of fate, just as I was trying to think of something more fun/less depressing to make than fruit salad, a happy little book showed up at my doorstep.

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If you have tiny people to feed and you’re not already familiar with Catherine McCord and her Weelicious website, you really need to get to know this amazing woman. She’s a That Mom of the highest order, and makes it seem like the coolest gig ever. It’s a whole lot of foods that your kid is probably already eating, just reinvented and reimagined.

Listen. My kid is picky. It’s not exactly a blast trying to feed her. But sometimes I do hit on a creative solution to making her limited menu a little more fun and actually manage to expand her palate in the process, and when the stars align like that, I wish I had more of those tricks in my back pocket. Weelicious is an arsenal of these tricks. I absolutely love when someone else does all the creative thinking for me, don’t you?

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Nature Cookies
Adapted from Catherine McCord’s Weelicious Lunches

These can be riffed on to your heart’s content–basically you just need 2 cups of mix-ins, and that can be the tasty bits listed here, or any combo of dried fruits, nuts, seeds, chocolate bits, etc. that you or your kid likes. If you’re like me and often find yourself with 102435 little bags of things with just a couple tablespoons rattling about inside, these are a great way to clear the pantry.

If you want to up the pretty on these, toss all the mix-ins together in a bowl, stir 1 1/2 cups into the dough, and press the remaining 1/2 cup into the tops of cookie dough balls so the bits are more visible.

I tried making these into bars by pressing the dough into a 9×13-inch pan, and while tasty, they crumbled a whole lot upon cutting and left me with random-sized pieces. Fine for everyday, not so great for serving to a crowd. So I’d recommend just going with scooping them out as cookies (read: don’t go getting all smart like me).

Makes about 3 dozen

2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup whole wheat flour (I tried both 100% whole wheat and whole wheat pastry flour–both worked!)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup honey
1 large egg, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup raisins
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup dark chocolate chips (I use Ghiradelli chips, which are bigger than average, so I chopped them a bit finer)
1/4 cup dried cherries or cranberries

Position oven racks to the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat it to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In the bowl of an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat together the butter and honey until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the egg and vanilla and beat for another couple of minutes, until smooth (the mixture will look curdled and terrible for a moment, but keep mixing–it will eventually emulsify after the egg and vanilla are added).

Reduce the mixer speed to low and stir in the dry ingredients, mixing until well-blended. Fold in the raisins, nuts, seeds, chocolate chips, and dried cherries or cranberries. Use a tablespoon-sized scoop to portion the dough out onto the baking sheets, 12 cookies per sheet. Press the dough balls down into disks (the dough doesn’t spread while baking).

Bake until golden brown, 12 to 14 minutes, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool.

4 Comments

  • They look so good! Also, I’m so impressed with you, THAT MOM. Role model.

    • I’m on week 6 now. Wavering.

  • I just made these and they are delicious! I used salted pumpkin seeds instead of sunflower seeds and it was the perfect salty/sweet healthy treat! Thanks for sharing!

    • That’s an excellent idea!

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