I was just 4 years old when my great grandma’s oatmeal raisin cookies became my favorite cookies of all time (snickerdoodles coming in a close second). Truly, love at first bite.
Pulling off a tasty, plant-based, gluten-free, sugar-free cookie was not the easiest of tasks, but by golly, we’ve got ourselves a yummy cookie I would actually consider healthy! So much so, that you can enjoy them for breakfast, just like you might enjoy yourself a hearty bowl of oatmeal, without remorse! So yes, these cookies aren’t packed with sugar, chocolate chips, butter, shortening, etc., but they don’t grow your pant-size either...a sweet reward in and of itself.
Oats - It wasn’t until I did more digging into the research around the health benefits of oats that I understood why I could get away with my recent brazen cookie-eating (we are talking dozens of cookies, people). Oats are a whole-grain that contain a very special component in it's soluble fiber, called beta glucan, which helps with appetite and fullness for hours, slows digestion, and helps keeps your gut and movements happy and flowing. There’s a lot of research available on the health benefits of oats, a great example is how effective oats can actually be in helping diabetics lower their elevated blood sugar values, blood lipid values, and lose weight.
One study makes a compelling statement about whole grains in general: “Epidemiological studies indicate that individuals with higher levels of whole-grain intake have a 29% lower risk for atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease than individuals with lower levels of whole-grain intake.” And the beta glucans in oats specifically have been shown to help lower total and LDL cholesterol levels. Taking it a step further, scientists have identified that the polyphenols in oats positively affect inflammation of arteries and the development of atherosclerosis. It’s no wonder the U.S. government promotes oats as heart-healthy!
But the goodness of oats doesn’t stop there! They have a secret weapon that no other cereal grain can boast: avenanthramides. These microwarriors serve as antipathogens that protect against disease and are potent antioxidants with vast protective qualities for our bodies.
Raisins - Speaking of microwarriors, the other ingredient I want to put into the spotlight today are raisins. They are rich in dietary fiber, minerals (like iron, potassium, and calcium), vitamins (including some B vitamins) and many health‐promoting phytonutrients and antioxidants. Actually, these little friends are now known to be one of the highest natural food sources of antioxidants!
Some of you might have already heard of the mighty antioxidant, resveratrol. It’s found in the skin of grapes, and remains after drying grapes into raisins. They have been incorporated as an anti-aging component in many beauty care products because of how powerful it is in protecting DNA and skin damage, but the best way to defend and heal your DNA is with the foods you eat, not a cream you spread on your skin. Going beyond skin-deep, resveratrol has been shown to have antiinflammatory and protective effects on cardiovascular and intestinal health (notice a theme here?). Not only do raisins make your heart happy, but it can make your blood happy as well by dropping your blood pressure as well as blood lipids levels.
Research is digging even deeper into resveratrol, including effects on weight management, uncovering a relationship between this phytonutrient and enhanced mitochondrial activity, protection against weight gain, and insulin resistance (mitochondria are the parts of our cells that turn glucose into energy that we use to move our bodies). To sweeten the deal even further, these little morsels have been shown to lower glucose and insulin responses after eating a meal. If those weren’t enough reasons to convince you to switch from store-bought candy to nature’s candy, raisins are even known to reduce ghrelin, one of the hunger hormones, effectively helping to curb your appetite.
Now that I have convinced you that these oatmeal raisin breakfast cookies are delicious little food-miracles, I also want to plug that the recipe is designed to make the food processor (or perhaps a vitamix), do most of the heavy lifting for you! Don’t worry, you can thank me later.
OATMEAL RAISIN BREAKFAST COOKIES
Makes about 2 dozen 2½ -inch soft and chewy cookies
Gluten Free, Plant-Based, Sugar Free, Salt Free
Prep Time: 25-30 mins; Bake Time: 14 mins
1 ½ cup dates
2 Tbsp ground flax seeds
2 ½ cups oats (don’t use instant oats)
1 ½ tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp cardamom
1 ⅓ cup walnuts
¼ cup almond butter (or preferred nut butter)
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp almond extract
5 Tbsp vanilla or plain dairy free milk (or water)
1 cup raisins
1 cup dried cranberries
⅛ tsp orange zest *optional
The Set Up:
Place dates in a bowl and cover with hot water, allow to soak while preparing other ingredients (at least 5-10 minutes).
Combine ground flax with 3 Tbsp non-dairy milk (or water) in a small bowl to make a flax egg, mixing well. Stir once or twice while it’s setting.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Zest orange, if using.
Add ⅓ cup walnuts to the food processor and pulse several times until desired size for “chopped nuts” texture. Set aside to add at the end (feel free to hand chop if you prefer).
Add 1 ½ cup of oats to a food processor and blend to a flour mixture (about 30 seconds). When oats just begin to become a fine texture add the remaining 1 cup of oats. Pulse to roughly chop, longer for a softer texture.
Add baking powder, cinnamon, and cardamom, pulse to mix, then transfer to a large mixing bowl.
Add remaining 1 cup walnuts to the food processor and process until nuts form a crumbly butter (sticking together and to the walls of the processor, about 30 seconds).
Add dates, 2 Tbsp vanilla non-dairy milk (or date-soak water), vanilla and almond extract, orange zest and nut butter, mixing thoroughly.
Once blended well add the flax egg and dry ingredients to batter and pulse until thoroughly mixed, using spatula to scrape the sides if needed.
Transfer the dough back into the mixing bowl and mix in in the raisins, cranberries, and chopped nuts.
Get Your Bake On:
Line baking sheets with parchment paper (or tinfoil).
Wet hands very lightly to work with the sticky dough (have a small dish of water within reach helps), forming into 2-inch balls.
Place balls about 4 inches apart and bake for 14-16 mins, just until they barely become golden brown across the top.
Once out of the over gently smash balls with a fork to flatten (or feel free to shape prior to baking). Let cool at least 5 mins before moving to a cooling rack, plate, or in my case, tummy. :)