I am such a sucker for a warm-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookie. The gooey chocolate chips. The sweet, soft center. The crispy golden edges. Mmmmmmm.
Almost as good as the cookie itself is the experience of baking cookies. It always brings me into the joy of the present moment and makes me remember the magic of what can happen when several independent ingredients join together with just the right amount of chemistry, heat and timing.
I've always wanted my kids to know the joy of baking cookies and eating them warm from the oven. But I'm not a big fan of refined sugar, and I prefer not to feed it to my young kids unless it's a very special occasion. So imagine my delight when I discovered an easy and healthy way to make delicious cookies (with no refined sugar, except in the chocolate chips)!
My first step was Cynthia Lair's cookbook Feeding the Whole Family, which contains a wonderful "Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies" recipe. While I adore the simple original recipe (and every other recipe in Lair's book!), I decided I liked the cookie better with a few changes of my own. I added a few ingredients to jazz it up a bit, but kept the recipe simple enough to easily make together with a three-year-old.
Since these cookies are loaded with good-for-you stuff, they taste a bit heartier, perhaps more scone-like, than their more delicate, sugared-up cousins. Yet, they are so yummy and deliver the satisfaction of a real cookie. I like to eat them warm from the oven with a glass of cold, fresh milk.
Sea Salt, 1/4 teaspoon
Walnuts, 1/3 cup, chopped
Coconut flakes, 1/3 cup
Chocolate Chips, 1/3 cup
Rolled oats, 1 and 1/2 cups
Ground flaxseed, 1 tablespoon
Whole wheat pastry flour, 1 cup
Cinnamon, 1 teaspoon
Vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon
Maple syrup (the real stuff), 1/2 cup
Butter (preferably unsalted), 1/2 cup, melted
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Then prep the space, ideally while your kiddo is otherwise occupied (on this day Junebug was playing with her stuffed animals in another room while I prepped). Get all the ingredients out, the baking sheet (with parchment paper if you wish), and the measuring cups and spoons.
When baking with Junebug, I like to give her her own bowl for mixing and tasting (see set-up, below). She loves to sample everything we put in the mix, including the plain flour and oats! Having her own bowl helps me keep the measured ingredients in my bowl for the cookies. We use the Learning Tower for her to stand on to reach the counter.
Add toddler, wearing her scary monster apron. (Shameless self-promotion: one-of-a-kind scary monster aprons will be on sale soon in my etsy shop.)
Melt the butter in a heat-proof cup (I zap it for 30 seconds in the microwave, but you can heat it up old school style on the stove if you prefer). Add the maple syrup and vanilla extract. Junebug loves to stir it all together, but I use caution because the butter can be really hot.
Put the salt, coconut, oats, cinammon, flaxseed and whole wheat pastry flour together in a bowl. (That's all the dry ingredients *except* for the walnuts and chocolate chips).
Stir it up until well-combined.
Chop the walnuts. Usually when I make these cookies with Junebug, she uses her wooden play knife to "chop" the nuts along side me while I do it. But on this particular day, we searched high and low but could not find her wooden knife! Anyway, after our search for her knife failed, Junebug said, grabbing her play carrot: "That's okay, Mommy, I'll just use this carrot and pretend it's my knife!" (Now, why didn't I think of that?)
Add the wet ingredients (butter, syrup and vanilla) to the dry mixture in the bowl. Mix together well. Then add the chopped walnuts and chocolate chips.
With clean hands and a spoon, portion out cookie-sized balls of dough onto the cookie sheet. The cookies won't flatten out much as they bake, so if you prefer flatter cookies you can mash them down a bit with your spoon or fingers. Put a bit of dough in a measuring cup for your hungry toddler, if you like.
Junebug always likes to tell me where to place each raw cookie on the cookie sheet. I've found this to be a great way for her to do some counting and participating while still allowing me to keep things moving along.
Put the cookies in the oven. Set the timer for 15-20 minutes. Look around to see what your other two kids are doing. (Ah-ha, there they are!)
Let your toddler join in the fun with her siblings for the next 15 minutes while you put the ingredients away and load the dishwasher. If you're really ambitious, try having your toddler help with this. (I was not feeling so ambitious.)
Take the cookies out when the edges are golden brown. In our oven, this is always about 17 minutes of baking. Using a spatula, promptly transfer the cookies to a cutting board or wire rack to cool for several minutes. Be sure the melted chips are cool enough before eating.
Enjoy! Leftover cookies can be stored overnight, or even for a couple of days, in a sealed container like tupperware.