Saturday, December 24, 2011

Pumpkin Pecan Cookies

With the New Year approaching and many people making a resolution to eat healthier, I offer up yet another in my series of healthy cookie recipes. I hate how a lot of people think that eating healthier means eating enjoyable tasteless food and I hope that my culinary adventures inspire people to experiment with and appreciate healthy ingredients, even if only in the smallest of ways. Although it does take a change in the way you cook and think about food, it's well worth the small effort to shift your attitudes and practices so that healthy and delicious food is a natural component of your diet and not a punishment (though life should never be without indulgences as well).

These tender and moist cookies get a bright citrus flavor from the orange juice and zest, wonderful toasty and nutty notes from the pecans and whole wheat pastry flour, with just a touch of sweetness and chewiness from the dates. One of the greatest things I have gained in my healthy cookie experimentation is an appreciation of the ability of dates to sweeten, act as a binder, and impart just a bit of chew with a subtle, yet delightful, flavor.

After the dessert smörgåsbords have been devoured but you're left needing a treat sans guilt, whip up a batch of these easy, nutritious, tasty little morsels. Equally appropriate for breakfast, a snack, or dessert, these will give you the energy to clean up the Christmas chaos and getting going on those New Year's resolutions.

Pumpkin Pecan Cookies
from Whole Foods Market
makes about 30 cookies

2 cups pecans, toasted and cooled
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 cup puréed pumpkin
1 tablespoon orange zest (from 2 small oranges)
3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (from 3 small oranges)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup chopped, pitted dates

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Put pecans and oats in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until a fine meal forms, about 25 times. Add flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and cloves and pulse another 20 times to combine all the ingredients. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.

2. Add pumpkin, orange zest, orange juice, vanilla extract and dates to the food processor. Blend until a smooth puree forms, scraping the sides down occasionally, about 1 minute. Form a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Scrape the pumpkin mixture into the well and fold all the ingredients together with a large spatula.

3. Scoop little heaps (about 2 tablespoons) of batter onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing them about 1 1/2 inches apart. Flatten the batter slightly. Bake 20 minutes, until the bottoms are just browned. Remove to a cooling rack and cool slightly before serving. Store in an airtight container.

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