It may not be obvious to readers of this blog, but I am actually something of a Sporty Spice in real life. I love making and photographing and writing about pastries, so that’s what I focus on in this little world, but as the saying goes, woman cannot live on butter and sugar alone…or at least, she cannot if she hopes to continue to fit into her jeans.
So to balance all of my sugar consumption, I tend to exercise quite a bit…the more scenic and extreme, the better. Over the years I’ve gotten into marathoning and ultrarunning, and have run in some awesome places, like Death Valley:
And to the top of Half Dome in Yosemite:
And point-to-point along the 60-mile Backbone Trail:
And across the Grand Canyon rim to rim: (that’s me on the far right!)
Lest you think I have gone all Kardashian on you in a desperate bid for attention and self-promotion, I really do have a point with all of these stories, and my point is this: Outdoor magazine should pay me to run and then write cute little vignettes about it. I mean, I know from experience that it can be hard to balance leading a healthy lifestyle and being an avid baker, especially if your love of baking stems from a love of eating baked goods.
So this week, instead of making the chestnut caramel cake for TWD, which sounds intriguing but also heavy and perhaps even deadly, I’ve been experimenting with some slightly healthier recipes that might be a little more kind to my waistband and my winter training schedule.
The first cookie I tried was from the website 101 Cookbooks and was called, appropriately enough, Nikki’s Healthy Cookies. Sounds like a winner already.
The cookie “dough” is mostly made from almond meal, oats, and coconut, bound together with bananas and coconut oil (one of my new favorite cooking ingredients!) They have some baking powder in them, so after baking they do puff up a bit and have a sort of cookie-ish texture, despite the lack of eggs or gluten. The flavor is a nice mix of banana, a little coconut, a touch of cinnamon, and of course, chocolate. Despite their healthy title, I did not hold back on the chopped chocolate:
I liked these cookies, and thought they were a decent enough substitute for the real thing, but that’s just what they felt like–a substitute. I really want to find a healthy treat that doesn’t feel like a placeholder but is exciting on its own.
The next healthy cookie recipe I tried is from Heather Eats Almond Butter. These are her famous Maple Nut Oaties.
People, these were deeeelicious. (And yes, I realize the pictures make the cookies look practically identical. I guess I have a healthy cookie ‘type.’) These tasted less like a cookie wannabe and more like a flavorful chocolate chip granola bar.
The cookies are simply toasted oats, coconut, nuts, and chocolate, bound together with nut butter and syrup. I used a combo of peanut butter and cashew butter, and agave syrup–another new favorite baking ingredient. (If you’re not familiar with agave, it’s a natural sweetener from the agave tree. It does have calories, but many people prefer it because it doesn’t spike your blood sugar the way most sweeteners do. It also adds a nice flavor and moistness. Also, Costco sells it in bulk!) However, you can substitute real maple syrup for agave if you’d like–heck, it’s even built into the recipe title.
These cookies came out moist, and chewy, and very flavorful from the toasted oats and gobs of nuts, nut butters, and chocolate. Wrapped in plastic, they’re perfect for stuffing into my running pack for energy during long runs, and they’re “healthy” enough that I can have them as an after-lunch (or -work, or -dinner, or -all of the above) snack and not feel like I’m canceling out the morning’s run.
Never fear, this blog won’t devolve into hemp-and-tofu muffin territory, but sometimes it’s fun to give the ole sweet tooth a break and try new things. I’m sure I’ll be back next week with refined white EVERYTHING, yahoo! But in case you’re intrigued, the Maple Nut Oaties recipe is after the cut…
Maple Nut Oaties
From Heather Eats Almond Butter
1 cup toasted rolled oats. (toast them in the toaster oven set on 350° for a few minutes. Watch them as they burn easily.)
1/2 cup nut butter (I used half peanut and half cashew)
1/2 cup maple syrup or agave nectar (I used agave)
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (I used toasted coconut)
1/2 cup chopped nuts (I used sliced almonds)
1/2 cup chocolate/carob chips or dried fruit (Um, why use fruit when you can use chocolate?!)
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 to 1/2 tsp salt
Pre-heat oven to 350°. Combine all ingredients and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Scoop cookie dough by TBSP onto parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes (I did 8.5, just until they started getting color). Let cool for a minute or so, then move them to a cooling rack to cool completely.