Healthified Desserts 101, Part 1: Nut Butter Cranberry Coconut Cookies (Vegan, No Added Sugar)

Week three of the blog! Still feeling really good about it! Even though I don’t have much of a following, I know this blog makes a difference in the lives of the few people who do read it. Thank you so much for the support!

One of my AmeriCorps friends started a monthly cooking club at the local senior center, and the topic for February is healthy desserts. She invited me to come speak to the seniors she works with about how to make desserts with healthier ingredients, and I couldn’t be more excited about attending their class this week! This is probably my favorite nutrition topic, especially since I love to bake so much!

I thought this blog would be a wonderful opportunity to share a a few tips on the process of “healthifying” desserts, as well as “veganizing” them. There’s a lot to know, so I’ll be breaking down the post into three parts, each part featuring one of the three recipes I recreated for the senior center. Since the requirements for the cooking club this month was for the seniors to create desserts with no added sugar or artificial sweeteners, this first blog post will focus on reducing added sugar.

Nut Butter Cranberry Coconut Cookies From Avocado Alice

A little disclaimer on this post: A pretty common stereotype of dietitians is that we don’t eat added sugar. If you’ve read the past couple of posts, you’ll notice that this is not true. While the recipes I make are somewhat healthier variation of the traditional dessert,  they still contain some form of added sugar (agave, maple syrup, molasses, granulated sugar, brown sugar, etc.). Sugar is very important in baking because it adds both a sweet taste and a tender texture to cakes, cookies, and brownies. While it is true that sugar adds empty calories, I believe that a little added sugar in any recipe, especially dessert, is perfectly fine. Why have a dessert if it isn’t sweet enough to satisfy you?

Anyways, now that the rant/disclaimer is over, on to the point of this post. While I believe having a little sugar, even in a “healthified” dessert is perfectly fine, I had to adapt to the challenge that was presented. As this is a vegan blog, I posed an additional challenge to myself to make my no-added-sugar desserts free of any eggs and dairy as well. I did some “research” (Pinterest) and came up with a few recipes that turned out pretty darn well! This first one is my personal favorite.

Nut Butter Cranberry Coconut Cookies From Avocado AliceNut Butter Cranberry Coconut Cookies

The secret to making them sweet with no sugar? Lots of fruit and a hint of vanilla extract! Here are the key ingredients:

  • Unsweetened applesauce: The naturally-occurring fructose found in fruit adds sweetness without added sugar. Bonus: a dose of Vitamin C! I also really like applesauce because it makes the cookies really soft and moist. If you use applesauce to replace sugar in another recipe, you might want to use a little less of the liquid ingredients (milk, water, oil, etc.).
  • Dried cranberries: Another fruit that will bring in some sweetness and vitamin C to our cookies! Dried fruits are also high in fiber. I choose cranberries over raisins because people tend to confuse raisins for chocolate chips and get mad after they taste your chocolate-less cookie.
  • Shredded unsweetened coconut: Yet another fruit that will add sweetness. I also like it for the slight crunch factor.
  • Vanilla extract: vanilla tastes sweet, so you can usually replace about half the sugar in a recipe with vanilla extract. Relying solely on vanilla extract to replace all of the sugar, however, will not work out too well.
  • Spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, and other spices somehow enhance the flavor of sweetness.

The raw dough is also delicious. Since it’s vegan, there’s no need to fear salmonella from raw eggs! Lick all the batter you want!Nut Butter Cranberry Coconut Cookies From Avocado AliceThe dough mix gets really moist from the applesauce. Wrapping it in parchment paper and refrigerating it makes it a lot easier to split into individual cookies to be baked. Also great if you want to freeze any leftover dough and only bake a few cookies at a time.

Nut Butter Cranberry Coconut Cookies From Avocado AliceThe final product: A sweet (but not too sweet), extremely moist,and soft cookie! It’s also super filling because of the fiber from the fruit and whole-wheat flour, as well as the protein from the nut butter. I like my cookies for breakfast with a glass of coconut milk.

Nut Butter Cranberry Coconut Cookies From Avocado Alice

Recipe: Nut Butter Cranberry Coconut Cookies

Adapted from Vegan Family Recipes

Makes 10-15 cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of nut butter (I used almond butter, but peanut butter would taste great!)
  • 1/2 cup of unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 tablespoons of coconut oil (butter for non-vegans)
  • 1 chia egg*
  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries, chopped
  • 1/3 cup of shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp of cinnamon or nutmeg

* 1 chia egg= 1 Tbs of chia seeds + 3 tbs of water. Wait until a gel forms

(10-15 minutes)before adding it to your dough. Feel free to use an actual egg if not vegan.

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 300F (150C).

2. Cream nut butter, sugar, coconut oil, and chia egg together in a medium mixing bowl. Stir in applesauce and vanilla extract.

3. Stir in whole wheat flour, cinnamon, cranberries, and shredded coconut into dough.

4. Roll dough on counter top into a log. This should be 2 inches in diameter and 5 inches long. Wrap tightly in parchment paper and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes until log is hard.

5. Using a sharp knife, cut log into 10-15 cookie slices.

6. Place cookies on a cookie sheet and bake for 18 to 20 minutes. Nut butter cookies are done when edges turn golden brown.

7. Cool on a cookie rack and store in an air tight container.

Coming up next on the blog: Whole-wheat banana applesauce bread.

P.S. I am slowly moving away from using my personal social media accounts to post updates on this blog. I encourage you to check out my separate Avocado Alice posts on Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook!

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