Healthy Treats (or Tropical Storm Cookies)

Last September, a tropical storm was in the forecast. For whatever reason, I took it more seriously than previous threats, so I stocked up non-perishable goods. At the time, I was newly vegan—so I found myself challenged at the idea of coming up with a mix of things that at least pretended to be nutritionally balanced. I’m not sure I succeeded at this, but among other things I ended up with  peanut butter and a bag of trail mix from Target with dried cranberries, golden raisins, almonds, and some kind of seed. And some dark chocolate (anything with a cocoa content of at least 72% is vegan…and while it’s not strictly healthy, there are antioxidants…plus, it’s no fun to stock up for a storm without at least one treat…right? Right!)

In the end, I didn’t lose power, so the exercise was moot. But it was a dark, stormy Saturday night, and I found myself craving cookies. Not willing to venture out to a store, I made do almost entirely with things I’d picked up for my emergency stash—and so these no-bake cookies were born.

I have made them several times since then using whatever I have on hand. What follows is my most recent version, with some nutritional kicks-in-the-pants.

Tropical Storm Cookies
This recipe is very adaptable. The basic requirements are raw oats, dried fruit, peanut butter, nuts or seeds, and chocolate.

1 cup of raw oatmeal (I used old-fashioned, but I don’t see why quick cooking wouldn’t work)
¼ cup of hemp seeds (optional–but a good source of protein)
¼ cup of ground flaxseed (optional–but a good source of omega-3’s)
2 cups less 2 tablespoons of smooth peanut butter (I used Crazy Richard’s, which contains nothing but peanuts)
1 ½ cups of dried fruit pieces (I used raisins)
½ cup of unsweetened flaked coconut
1 cup of nut pieces or seeds (I used ½ cup of pecans and ½ cup of walnuts)
7 oz. of dark chocolate, broken into small pieces

Note: If you decide to skip the hemp seeds and/or flaxseed, be sure to substitute with an equal amount of oats.

Start by grinding the oats in a clean coffee grinder until the texture is like a rough flour—this step is completely optional, but it makes the dough easier to work with.

Combine the ground oats, hemp seeds, flaxseed, and coconut in a large bowl and mix together.

Add the peanut butter and mix it all up until everything is incorporated (the consistency should be something like cookie dough).

Add the dried fruit and nuts/seeds, and incorporate into the dough (I found it worked best if I used my hands).

Once everything is mixed together, take heaping tablespoons of the dough and roll into balls.  Place them on a cookie sheet covered with wax paper, and make sure they’re not touching. Once all the dough has been rolled, place the cookie sheet into your freezer until the dough becomes firmer (at least 30 minutes).

While the dough is in the freezer, place the chocolate pieces in a microwave safe bowl and microwave on medium high for 30 seconds at a time, stirring in between, until the chocolate is melted and smooth. (You can also melt the chocolate on the stove using a double boiler, but I’m too lazy for that.)

Once frozen, remove the dough balls from the freezer. Dip each one in the melted chocolate until covered. Shake off any excess chocolate over the bowl and return the cookies to the cookie sheet. Once all the cookies have been dipped in chocolate, return the cookie sheet to the freezer until the chocolate coating has hardened (at least 15 minutes).

Makes 2 to 2 ½ dozen cookies (depending on the size of your balls and how much dough you consume during the non-baking process).

These are kind of cheater cookies; they’re technically no-bake, but you need power to grind the oatmeal, melt the chocolate, and freeze the cookies. Still: they’re easy, they contain no added sugar beyond the chocolate, and they’re healthy. Win-win-win!

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