Moist and heart healthy Orange Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies! Sometimes you just need something yummy and slightly sweet and these fit the bill. This one involves a happy accident I must share because it makes such a difference in the flavor of these gems. Preparing to make a batch last week, I’d zested the orange, but our plans suddenly changed and I needed to do something with the fresh zest. I know I thought! I’ll put it in the ½ cup oil the recipe calls for and set it aside for the time being. As circumstances would have it, it was several days before the cookie-making resumed, and now I had the most lovely, orange-infused oil! A grand touch of serendipity. It really punches up the orange flavor, so I highly recommend it if you can wait that long to make them. My friend Kristy will be in town in a few days and I’m infusing oil now so I can serve these warm from the oven when she gets here.
Bill loves them as an afternoon snack with green tea, and I like to munch them for energy before a workout. Oatmeal helps lower LDL (“lethal” cholesterol) and according to WebMD, more recent data shows it may improve your cholesterol profile by curbing small cholesterol particles and may also reduce inflammation. Additionally, chocolate is believed to help protect your cardiovascular system because it’s rich in flavanoids. It’s important though to choose the purest dark chocolate you can find. (The heart-healthiest dark chocolate has at least 60 percent cocoa solids.) And nuts are good for your heart too! Walnuts top the list because they’re found to have more antioxidants than other nuts.
Another goodness ingredient is flaxseed, which contains omega-3 fatty acids in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), so it’s a good source of antioxidants and healthy fat for the heart. You can purchase the seeds and grind them yourself, or buy them pre-ground. Either way, it’s best to keep ground flaxseed refrigerated if you’re not using it right away. The coconut oil is a good source of lauric acid, which studies have shown can increase your HDL or “healthy” cholesterol and lower your LDL, but you can use another healthy oil, such as light olive oil.
Adding the yummy sweetened cranberries was Bill’s idea and a good one. One thing I love about oatmeal cookies is you can change them up depending on your mood or what you have on hand. You can use any variety of nut you like as well as fruit or a bit of spice. Apples in place of the chocolate for example, along with a bit of cinnamon instead of the orange zest is really good.
Orange Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
½ cup extra virgin coconut oil*
½ cup pure, grade B maple syrup
1 whole egg (see note below)
1 egg white
½ cup unsweetened applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 heaping tablespoon orange zest (zest of one orange)
½ cup oat flour (or wheat if you’re not wheat or gluten sensitive)
½ cup ground flax seed
2 cups rolled oats
⅛ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ cup chopped walnuts
1 bar dark chocolate, coarsely chopped (3 to 3.5 oz)**
½ cup dried, sweetened cranberries, preferably juice sweetened
olive oil cooking spray
Notes: Let your eggs come to room temperature to avoid solidifying the coconut oil and be sure your coconut oil is liquid but not hot.
- In a medium bowl, beat together the egg, oil, orange zest, syrup and vanilla.
- In a large bowl, mix rolled oats, oat flour, flax meal, baking soda and salt.
- Mix the wet ingredients into the dry. Stir in the nuts, chocolate chips and cranberries, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray. Once the dough has chilled, scoop rounded tablespoons of dough into your hand, shaping roughly into balls. Place on a baking sheet about 1″ apart and press gently to 1/2″ thick.
- Bake for 18-20 minutes and let cool a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Cookies are somewhat crumbly until they’ve cooled.
*You can zest the orange and mix with oil several days ahead of time to infuse the oil. It’s super yummy!
**Orange chocolate is also delicious, and if you’d prefer to use dark chocolate chips, use a heaping ½ cup.
Photos by: Bill Peterson Galleries