I love making treats with my daughter, particularly at holidays. I have memories of my own mom mixing up sugar cookie dough late at night (it was likely eight o’clock, but it seemed late to me) before Valentines Day or Halloween or other special days. I was supposed to be in bed, but I can recall hearing her in the kitchen and sneaking to the door to watch, filled with anticipation for rolling out the dough and decorating the cookies the next day. And, of course, more than anything, eating them!
At the same time, I struggle with not wanting to make cookies or other goodies all the time. I don’t want all of our traditions and happy family times to be entrenched with unhealthy food. Don’t get me wrong. I’m fine with a fair amount of all-out desserts; for instance, we have a tradition of making doughnuts twice a year, and I love it. But I can’t justify it every day. So, whenever I can find a healthier treat recipe that kids like, I’m excited. We get to indulge in fun baking bonding and eat something yummy together. I get to see the excitement on my daughter’s face, the anticipation I remember so well, but I don’t feel guilty about letting her eat a plateful of whatever we make.
These little nuggets pass both the health and the tastiness tests with flying colors. They are wildly popular with kids—I’ve made them several times with my daughter’s friends—and I think they’re delicious too. They’re moist and chewy, with chunks of melted chocolate. The pumpkin is intense but sweet, and the oats make them substantial. For kids, I always make these with chocolate, but I like them best with chopped dates. If you make them that way, they can even pass as a breakfast food: pumpkin-date breakfast bites, or something to that effect. You can also easily do a half-and-half batch, which is what I do when I whip these up. Just take half the dough out of the bowl before mixing in the chocolate and stir dates into that half. Oddly, I don’t like this recipe with raisins; I don’t think they’re sweet enough.
If you have issues with wheat, I think you could successfully substitute almond flour for the whole wheat pastry. I’ve tried this in other variations of these cookies that I’ve made, and they’ve been just as delicious. To make your own almond flour, grind whole almonds (I usually used toasted and unsalted ones) in a food processor until they reach the appropriate consistency (which will be like very fine, dry sand). Make sure the almonds aren’t wet at all, or else you will end up with a paste.
With Halloween just around the corner, (tomorrow!), these make the perfect little snack for this afternoon. Enjoy!!
A note on pumpkin: I’m not usually a big proponent of name-brand products (we go generic around here for almost everything), but if you’re using canned pumpkin, I have to recommend Libby’s over any others I’ve tried. It seems that often when I try another brand, it’s not as sweet or vibrant orange, and the texture is so different from brand to brand that I can’t be sure these cookies will turn out.
Special Diets and Allergies: Vegan and dairy-free if made with non-dairy chocolate (like Trader Joe’s brand chocolate chips) or the date variation; wheat free if made with almond flour (see above); nut free.
Lastly, before I give you the recipe, I have to tell you about two exciting upcoming events. First of all, on Thursday, I will be participating in the Virtual Vegan Potluck, a round-up of blog posts, linked together, featuring delicious recipes. I’ll be posting a decadent chocolate truffle recipe, so make sure you stop by! Also, starting November 1, I’m hosting a $10 gift card giveaway! Entering is easy. Details will be on the front page of the blog starting Thursday.
Healthy Pumpkin Cookies
Makes 2 to 3 dozen
Cookies and holidays go hand-in-hand in my mind, particularly when it comes to celebrating with kids. These little bites of pumpkin and oats are so easy to make, older kids can make them on their own. Don’t let them eat all of the cookies, though; save some of these scrumptious little nuggets for yourself. You won’t be able to resist the combination of melting chocolate, moist pumpkin, and a touch of cinnamon. If you want to make these less desserty and more of a granola bar or breakfast food, use chopped dates instead of the chocolate chunks.
1 1/4 C pureed pumpkin
1/4 C agave
1/4 C vegetable oil
1 t vanilla
2 1/3 C rolled oats (not instant)
2/3 C whole wheat pastry flour
1 – 1 1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 t sea salt
1 t baking powder
1/3 – 1/2 C semi-sweet chocolate, chopped (or chocolate chips)
Variation: substituent 4 large Medjool dates (pitted and chopped) for the chocolate
- Preheat the oven to 350 F, with the top rack in the top third of the oven (one position above the middle of the oven). Grease a cookie sheet.
- Combine the pureed pumpkin, agave, oil, and vanilla in a large bowl.
- In a smaller mixing bowl, stir together the oats, flour, cinnamon, salt, and baking powder.
- Pour the dry ingredients into the wet, mixing just until combined.
- Stir in the chocolate chips or dates. The mixture will not stick together as well as many cookie doughs; do not be alarmed by this.
- Place heaping tablespoons of dough onto the cookies sheet and bake for 14 to 16 minutes, or until the cookies are lightly golden on the bottom.