“Eat more colorful fruits and vegetables” is a nutrition message that is gaining recognition. But just because a food is beige doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bland or lacks nutritional value.
Take oats, for instance.
They’re not only economical and convenient, they’re also tasty.
OK, so a steaming bowl of oatmeal cries out for embellishment, such as fresh blueberries or a splash of cream. Likewise, an oatmeal cookie practically demands a smattering of raisins.
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But oats are high in vitamin B-1 and contain a good amount of B-2 and E. A whole grain, oats are also packed with phytochemicals and insoluble fiber that have a beneficial effect on cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar and intestinal health. And they’re a stick-to-your ribs sort of food that can keep hunger pangs at bay for hours.
So how does all that good nutrition fare when it’s packed into a cookie?
Commonly used in baking, rolled oats are an ingredient that readily lends itself to low-fat alterations. The Star’s recipe for Oatmeal Spice Cookies is an example of how a few tweaks add up to a healthy treat.
We started with the classic oatmeal/raisin combination, then used egg whites, fat-free milk and unsweetened applesauce to reduce the overall fat content. Whole-wheat flour bumps up the whole grains another notch.
Other ingredients that make this cookie a real standout are walnuts, which offer healthful omega-3 fatty acids, and sunflower seeds, rich in iron. Spices are high in antioxidants. (In an American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study, 13 of the 50 food products highest in antioxidants were spices, including cinnamon.)
Shopping tip: Be sure to choose quick-cooking oats that take about 5 minutes to cook, not instant oatmeal, which can turn gooey and lumpy when added to baked goods.
Cooking tip: To toast walnuts, place nuts on a baking sheet and toast at 350 degrees for 7 minutes or until lightly toasted.
Storage tip: Store in airtight container for up to 3 or 4 days; freeze for longer storage.
Oatmeal Spice Cookies
Makes about 5 dozen
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 egg whites
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/3 cup fat-free milk
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 cups quick-cooking rolled oats
1 cup raisins
1/4 cup roasted, unsalted, shelled sunflower seeds
1/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray baking sheets with nonstick spray coating.
Beat together sugar, brown sugar, egg whites and oil. Beat in vanilla, milk and applesauce. Stir together flours, baking soda, salt and spices; blend into sugar mixture. Stir in oats, raisins, sunflower seeds and walnuts.
Drop cookie dough by teaspoonfuls onto prepared baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. Dip the bottom of a glass into sugar, then use bottom of glass to press cookie down lightly and evenly to 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick. Bake 11 to 13 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to wire rack to cool completely.
Per cookie: 73 calories (17 percent from fat), 1 gram total fat (trace saturated fat), trace cholesterol, 14 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams protein, 64 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber.
Recipe developed for The Star by professional home economists Kathryn Moore and Roxanne Wyss.