A Cookie By Any Other Name

A cookie is a cookie is a cookie, right?

I’ve known that is not true since I was very young.  Not to brag, but my mother baked when I was a kid.  Her cookies were better than any store bought cookie…. but not as good as bakery cookies (sorry Mom).  I preferred a good cookie.  Who wouldn’t?

Once she started working she didn’t bake as much but still being budget conscious, she bought the cheapest cookies available.  I thought they were really lame…. until my best friend would come over and be delighted to break into the cellophane wrapped goodies.  She didn’t get cookies at all, so she thought even the cheap-o, 3 dozen for $1, lame ones from the store were okay.  It’s what you get used to, isn’t it?

I also like to bake and I have always been a cookie person as opposed to a cake person.  Many of our friends can tell you that they looked forward to dessert at our house because they knew it would be really good.  Every person’s good.  Plain old good.  Good old good – sweet – good.  What you get used to good.

I can no longer be sure that the ‘goodies’ I prepare will be resoundingly received as ‘dessert good’.  In part this is because we (I) attempt to reproduce goodies in a healthy fashion.  This doesn’t always work.  I confess that I am amused by the number of recipes out there for ‘natural’ versions of candy bars.  Really?  Perhaps these versions are better than the original because one knows what is in it, but if the main ingredient is still sugar (even natural sugar) then it’s not very healthy.  

We (my family / my cooking) have traveled the dessert continuum away from high sugar to a point that some people don’t appreciate.  They’re not used to a ‘dessert’ that is less sweet than they expect.  The ‘We’ mentioned travelling together is very important here.  My son is part of that ‘we’ and he still appreciates the ‘goodies’ that I make.  This is in part due to the unavailability of alternatives, i.e. deprivation.  He doesn’t get to eat high sugar items and so he is used to lower levels of sweetness.  

Although it doesn’t sound like a Baby Step, deprivation or total abstinence can go a long way to changing how things taste.  I highly recommend periods of abstinence for getting back in touch with lower levels of sweetness, saltiness and even greasiness.   Not only is this helpful to enjoying things with less sugar, salt and fat, but it is important to the basic reality that we all seem to have a little trouble reining in our desires for these tastes.   My son thinks I make too big a deal out of him drinking even one soda.  “One soda isn’t going to kill me Mom,” he argues.  No, one soda won’t kill you, but it could reset your taste buds and raise the bar on what you consider to be sweet, delicious and appetizing.  That one soda could tweak what you’re used to.

Abstinence (further discussed in our sugar busting series) lowers the bar for me every time, and it has lowered it for my family.  I have used periods of abstinence with sugar on a number of occasions.  Fruit, and baked goods that rely more heavily on a variety of flavors and less sugar to be appealing, are wonderful when the higher level of sugar is not expected.  I mean there is sweet, and there is SWEET!!!!  It’s what you get used to isn’t it?  You have a choice about what you (and your family if you are the chief cook and kitchen commander) are used to.

I offer you here a cookie that uses the flavors of pumpkin, pecans, oats, and cinnamon, along with some sweetener, to please everyone … especially if there are no commercial cookies in the house and the recipients do not always eat overly sugary foods.  Seriously, this is a wonderful cookie – and can help change the expectations from sweet to interesting, pleasing and satisfying.  All while providing some nutrition…. you could get used to that!

2013-05-08 17.12.09

Healthy Pumpkin Cookies  (GF)  adpated from The Joyful Pantry


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)
1/3 cup brown rice flour
1/3 cup that is half brown rice flour and half tapioca flour  (or for non-GF, use 2/3 cup whole wheat flour for brown rice and tapioca)
2 t cinnamon
1/2 t sea salt
1 t baking powder
1/3 C chopped pecans
1/3 C semi-sweet chocolate, chopped (or chocolate chips) or raisins

1.    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.
2.    Combine the pureed pumpkin, agave, oil, and vanilla in a large bowl.
3.    In a smaller mixing bowl, stir together the oats, flour, cinnamon, salt, and baking powder.
4.    Pour the dry ingredients into the wet, mixing just until combined.
5.    Stir in the chocolate chips or raisins. The mixture will not stick together as well as many cookie doughs; do not be alarmed by this.
6.    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.

Get used to them asking for more!  🙂

Little Sis has come up with an awesome cookie recipe that is lower in sugar and high in other flavors, like garam masala, Spicy Sweeties.

For more healthy treats and recipes and a whole lot of information on how to make them a part of your daily life, check out our new book,Baby Steps to Better Health: A Guided Journey in Healthier Eating.



82 responses

    • Thanks – and thanks for the great recipe to start with. It is so much easier to adapt a recipe to GF when it doesn’t rely heavily on wheat flour in the first place.

    • You might not want to talk about tons of organic pumpkin too loudly…. we might be knocking on your door 😉
      Hope you enjoy the cookies!

  1. These sound wonderful! I noticed when I stopped consuming artificial sweeteners that everything became much sweeter as well. I think so many consume so much artificial sweeteners so that their tolerance to real sugar is very high.

    Thanks for sharing on our Healthy Tuesdays Blog Hop!
    Kerry from Country Living On A Hill

    • Good for you for giving up the artificial sweeteners. They really are a menace 😉 So glad you like the sound of the cookies and we really appreciate you hosting and being so gracious as to stop by. Have a great week!

  2. I like the idea of using less sugar in one’s diet. It always seems like there is too much candy floating around our house. If it isn’t Halloween candy, it’s Valentine’s or Easter candy. This looks like a yummy recipe I’ll have to try!

    • Holidays are rough that way, aren’t they? And it seems like other people are always giving my child candy… at school, at sports events, at church… everytime we turn around there are cookies, cake, candy and soda being offered. Lowering the taste for sugar is an on-going battle, but I’m always delighted to find recipes like this one that everyone likes but are lower sugar. Thanks for stopping by!

    • Thank you for hosting Amy. I just made another batch for a road trip – feels a little like a treat without the guilt or blech feeling.

    • I hadn’t either and was very pleased with the moisture and flavor they imparted. Let us know what you think if you try them! And thanks for hosting, we do appreciate it!

  3. I must want these pretty badly. Not only have I clicked on them from What’d You Do This Weekend (thanks for sharing), but almost every other party I have seen them at. Can’t wait to see what you bring this week!

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  6. This looks great! We’ve been reducing the sugar in our baking as well. I like the addition of chocolate chips and/or raisins to give the little extra sweetness. You’re right about the sodas. They’re a trigger food (drink?) for me.

    • Hi Lydia! Soda just sets the bar of sweetness so high – everything else tastes decidedly not sweet by comparison. Rock on with your reduced sugar intake 🙂

    • I haven’t used a lot of coconut flour, so I’m not sure how it behaves, but I would just make sure that your dough seems like a bake-able consistency. Let us know if it works!

  7. These are great! I made them tonight and used fresh roasted and mashed pumpkin, and 2/3 c blanched almond flour in place of all flour in recipe and they worked perfectly! My toddler cannot have gluten or dairy and she gobbled these up with big smiles.

    • Thanks for letting us know Heather! Love to hear about it when people make our recipes. So glad your GF angel liked them. We haven’t had them in awhile…. I think I’ll make some today 🙂

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