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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Peanut Butter Cookies with a healthy twist

The fine folks at Cooking Matters Michigan are at it again—asking us to make over traditional holiday fare, into something healthy.  Well, why not?!

What is Cooking Matters

It’s a national program housed locally at Gleaners Community Food Bank. Cooking Matters is part of the Share our Strength program, and offers classes in cooking, nutrition and making healthy choices for low-income adults and teens.  A volunteer corps of chefs, dietitians and everyday people with an interest in giving back take part in this educational program that makes a huge difference for some people who could really use a little extra help. 

The Challenge:

Make over a typically unhealthy/favorite holiday meal using three ‘secret ingredients’. Incorporate healthy cooking/baking techniques and nutritious ingredients while maintaining the essence of the dish.

And the secret ingredients are:

1. Winter Squash  2. Peanut Butter  3. Cinnamon  

OK, so here’s the thing. I didn’t focus on a ‘meal’.  I read too quickly and opted for dessert.  It came out good though, so it’s worth adding to your Christmas cookie list, should you wish to.  Here goes…

The night before, I roasted a halved butternut squash for two hours at 375 degrees. No seasoning, just some cooking spray. I scooped out the insides and refrigerated.

Now get started on the recipe...

Combine the following in a bowl:
1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter (I used Trader Joe’s natural)
1/4 cup roasted butternut squash
1/4 cup softened butter
7/8 cup dark brown sugar

Cream until smooth.

Add in one egg and continue creaming until all mixed together.

In another bowl, mix dry ingredients:
1/2 cup white flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Fold dry ingredients into wet ingredients.


Add 1/2 cup oats until just combined.

Drop teaspoon size dollops of batter onto an ungreased cookie sheet and place in pre-heated 350 degree oven. Bake 13 minutes and remove to wire rack. Don’t overbake!

These cookies turned out really well. You get the distinct peanut butter flavor and plenty of sweetness from the dark brown sugar.  By replacing half the butter or margarine with cooked squash, you are trimming saturated and/or transfat while adding veggies.  Incorporating whole wheat flour adds a little denseness, and the nutty flavor pairs well with the peanut butter. The oatmeal adds protein, fiber and good taste too.

But what about the kid test?  

Our 12-yr-old son saw them and asked if he could have one.  I didn’t tell him about the secret ingredient. He gobbled one down and asked if he could have another. He then took three and poured a glass of milk.  Win!

For more information on Cooking Matters Michigan, visit their blog, and find them on Facebook and Twitter.

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