Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Browning Bananas and a Craving for Cookies

It's that time of the year when the snow begins to thaw, it starts to rain more, and we throw out that old pair of snow boots. Jackets get lighter. The sun shines more often. And the Girl Scouts set up their stands around town to sell cookies of all flavors. Sadly, I wasn't able to buy my Girl Scout cookies before Lent - where I gave up chocolate and candy. Now all I can do is drool over samoas and tagalongs from afar. This drooling has led me to craving cookies like the cookie monster.

This morning I discovered that our last two bananas were starting to turn brown. This is usually the key sign to make banana bread, but it didn't interest me as a baking adventure. I wanted something new. And I still desperately wanted cookies. This meant in between classes I would scour the internet for recipes (on cooking light, all recipes, real simple, and my recipes). I found a lot of awesome recipes, but this idea I fell in love with: Banana Oatmeal Cookies.

An episode of Good Eats got me into using Oats, especially for their health benefits. Plus I could make a healthier snack that didn't break my lenten promise - or hopefully my waistband. I set out later that night on a fun baking adventure adapted from this original recipe at all recipes.com.

Banana Oatmeal Cookies

 - 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
 - 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
 - 1 teaspoon salt
 - 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
 - 3/4 teaspoon (generous) ground cinnamon
 - 1/2 cup plain greek yogurt
 - 1 teaspoon cornstarch
 - 1 cup sugar (I used splenda half and half blend, meaning I only used 1/2 cup)
 - 1 egg
 - 2 medium mashed bananas
 - 1 3/4 cups cooking oats
 - 1/2 cup pecans (or your favorite nuts, preferably chopped)

 1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease baking sheets.
         Since we actually don't have any cookie sheets here right now (go figure), I used a mini cupcake pan and a pizza brick to hold my dough. The mini cupcake can made adorable little muffin shaped cookies. My sister called them muffins, but they're softer inside with a nice crunch outside.

2. In a medium bowl, add flour, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon.

3. Cream together the greek yogurt, cornstarch, and sugar.
          I decided to use greek yogurt instead of the 1 cup of shortening, to cut down on fat and give it a moist and soft texture inside. I found out that it's good to add cornstarch to your recipes from the Livestrong website for tips on baking with Greek yogurt. It keeps the yogurt soft and from clumping or really mixing up the texture of the baked goods. They also recommend keeping some of the original, such as butter or oil, but I just avoided that all together and went with all Greek yogurt. This is okay with cookies, but might not work as well for cakes.

4. Add egg, banana, oatmeal, and nuts to the mixture and mix well.
         This step was interesting since I don't have a stand mixer or a hand mixer. I started off doing step 3 in a small food processor. This worked fine until all this stuff was supposed to get tossed in. The egg and banana were more important to get really blended - so I added them into the food processor and got that mixed in while I added the oatmeal and nuts to the dry mixture.

5. Mix together the wet and dry ingredients.
        This is where it was fine for me using the small food processor. It all gets put together. Of course, it may have taken me longer to get everything incorporated, it works if you would like to focus on the egg and banana in the wet mixture and the oatmeal and nuts in the dry. They are combined very quickly.

6. Drop by teaspoon fulls onto cookie sheet - or into a mini cupcake pan. Or whatever way you feel like mixing up this recipe.

7. Bake at 400 for around 15 minutes, or until they just start to brown. For smaller cookies (or muffins) they end at 10 minutes, but the larger are about 15. Let them cool completely and store in a closed container to keep that moist banana flavor.

Trust me, this is a sweet treat you can keep coming back to and not feel bad about - either for a Lenten promise, your waistline, or your heart health.

- Mollie

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