just can’t help myself

I have a bit of an issue with baked goods.  One might actually be more inclined to call my ‘issue” a minor addiction, as my mind seems to focus on one track when I find myself in a room that also harbors some form of baked treat.  Like a moth to a flame I am drawn to whatever chocolate-y, vanilla-y, fruity, fluffy, cakey, crumbly goodness my eyes or nose pick out.  It takes an immense amount of willpower to resist the temptation of dessert no matter the time of day, and there are certain months of the year when what little willpower I have takes off on vacation and leaves me defenseless to the siren song of sweets.

Those months would be November and December, when it is nearly impossible to take ten steps without encountering a variety of cookie, cake or brownie that somebody is offering up. I brought the temptation upon myself even earlier last year, filling the month of October with various types of pie in preparation for the upcoming holidays.  I grew accustomed to dessert every night until finally, in the first week of the new year my practical self, the side of me that recognized that my pants were getting a little *ahem* snug in certain areas, intervened and told my over-indulgent self to lay off the ‘goods.

Not one to jump on board with any overly restrictive, treats-prohibiting, quit-cold-turkey diets, I recognized the fact that I simply needed to find some healthier options to satiate my cravings for sweets rather than eliminating them from my life completely.  I browsed the archives of Bella Eats’ leaner, more fitness-focused days and came across this recipe for banana date bread*, an old favorite and one that I’d nearly forgotten about.  In no time my kitchen smelled of baking banana and cinnamon as I pulled a loaf from the oven.  Spread with a bit of almond butter and paired with fresh fruit it served as breakfast for Brian and I several mornings in a row.

Inspired by my first healthy baking activity in months, I decided that afternoon to start experimenting with a new type of cookie. Or, rather, a granola bar masquerading as a cookie.  That was my hope, anyway, to create a cookie so chock-full of good-for-me ingredients like oat bran, rolled oats, dried fruit and whole grain flour, without the less desirable ingredients such as butter and refined sugar, that I’d be able to eat several of them for breakfast.  Or for a snack before my new workout routine.  Or right before I go to bed while I’m waiting for the dogs to come in from outside.  You get the idea.

What resulted is a soft, chewy cookie that IS full of delicious and hearty ingredients, minus butter, refined sugar and even eggs. The whole grains provide a flavorful backdrop for the dried cherries and dark chocolate that punctuate each bite.  I made them three times within two weeks, tweaking the recipe until I was satisfied with the final result.  The photographs in this post are actually of the second batch – the final batch saw the addition of a bit more baking soda and the resulting cookies weren’t as flat as those pictured below, so don’t be surprised if yours look a little different.

In the end, I don’t know that there is actually any caloric difference between these cookies and your standard variety.  But I can assure you that they are delicious, and any calorie savings I might have seen were made up for when I reached for another cookie. And another.  I just can’t help myself. I’ve decided to start running again instead.

Chocolate Cherry Granola Cookies

(dairy free, egg free, naturally sweetened) adapted from Sweet & Natural Baking

makes 20 cookies


  • 1-3/4 cups spelt flour (if you can’t find spelt flour, use white whole wheat flour instead and only 1 tsp of baking soda)
  • 1-1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup oat bran
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup liquid fruit juice concentrate (I use FruitSweet, which I find at Whole Foods)**
  • 6 tbsp canola oil
  • 1-1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened dried cherries


  1. Position oven racks in center and top third of oven.  Preheat to 350*.  Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Sift the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt together in a large bowl.  Add the oat bran and rolled oats and whisk to combine.  Make a well in the center.
  3. Whisk the fruit juice concentrate, canola oil and vanilla together in another bowl.  Pour into the well and mix together with a wooden spoon.  Stir in the chocolate chips and the dried cherries.  Cover and refrigerate until firm enough to scoop, about 1 hour.
  4. Using about 3 tbsp dough per cookie, transfer the dough to the baking sheets and space 2-inches apart.  Bake the cookies until the edges are lightly browned and they feel firm in the center, 12-15 minutes.  Halfway through baking, switch the position of the baking sheets.  Cool the cookies for 2 minutes on the baking sheets, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

* A note about that bread – I substituted  a 1/2-cup of fat-free vanilla greek yogurt for the applesauce and it was absolutely divine.  Try it!

** The third time I made these cookies I only had a 1/2-cup of FruitSweet left, so I substituted a 1/4-cup of pure maple syrup for the remaining sweetener.  It was delicious, and I loved the extra flavor added to the cookies.  If you can’t find liquid fruit juice concentrate, I’d try substituting maple syrup for the full amount of sweetener.  Maybe leave out the vanilla though.  And then tell me how they turn out!


19 responses to “just can’t help myself

  1. You tweaked the banana date bread! Now I have to make it again. Maybe this time in my new mini loaf pans 🙂

  2. After browsing these photos (many times), I admit that these lovely morsels are worth the run.

  3. These look delicious! I definitely need to give them a try! I love the combination of cherries and chocolate.

  4. ooh delectable recipe!

  5. Yum, those sound good!!! And I have the same problem :/ Any baked goods around me and i’m doomed.. especially cakes, brownies, and cookies..

  6. These look amazing. I’m always trying baked goods that don’t have white flour, white sugar or a ton of butter but they never come out looking this good. I will have to try these!

  7. Whitney – I did! And it was good…really good. 🙂 Have fun with those mini loaf pans! So cute…

    Jennifer – Indeed they are… 🙂

    Suzanne – Is there a better combination?!? 🙂

    Rebecca – Thank you!

    theprocessofhealing – I’m glad I’m not alone in my weakness… 🙂

    Dawn – I hope you’ll try them, and let me know what you think! I find that with whole grain flours, the addition of some extra baking soda helps with rise and, therefore, appearance. 🙂

  8. I’ve been searching for a healthy cookie recipe and I these fit the bill (or the pants) perfectly. Thanks!

  9. greensandjeans

    I love “healthy” treats like these so I don’t feel bad if I grab an extra cookie or two!

  10. These look so delicious – I’m a sucker for anything with oatbran. I love the texture and hearty flavour it lends to recipes!

    I used to read your blog religiously (and comment sporadically) but unfortunately became a bit caught up in completing my thesis at the end of last year. I’ve just had a pleasant evening catching up on your wonderful recipes, and it’s rather fitting as I’m currently back in Charlottesville visiting friends (having done an exchange year at UVA in 2007-8).

    I was wondering if you might be able to recommend any favourite stores for edibles? I’m a big fan of Integral Yoga and Rebecca’s Natural Foods, but you seem to buy mostly local foods, and I’d love to know where you’d recommend finding such wonderful goodies (besides your garden, of course! :D). But don’t worry if you don’t have time- I’ll just revel in reading your blog and feeling excited to be in the same city as you 😛

  11. I’m always so intrigued by vegan baking. In my experience it can either be magnificent or completely terrible, but these cookies look lovely. I’m quite impressed!

  12. I made your banana date bread yesterday, and it is an outstanding loaf of bread! If I can track down some liquid fruit juice concentrate, I’ll have to make these cookies as well.

  13. I’ce just made these and they’re fantastic! I used a mixture of rice syrup and agave nectar as the sweetener and whole wheat flour instead. I found there wasn’t quite enough liquid in so I used a bit of maple syrup and it worked out great! Thanks!

  14. Yes running is the best solution! Why resist your baking I wouldn’t!!

  15. fulltimefoodie – I’m glad to have been able to help. Please let me know what you think of them!

    greensandjam – My thoughts exactly! 🙂

    Hannah – Welcome back! I’m glad you’re here, and that you’ve completed your thesis. Congrats! Re: Shopping… We buy most of our local produce from the farmer’s market when it is running, but during the 5 months that we must shop elsewhere we get what we can at Whole Foods, Integral Yoga, The Organic Butcher and Feast. C’ville Market is great too, but I’m rarely over that way. We also arrange monthly deliveries from Double H Farm for our pork products and eggs.

    Elizabeth – It took three tries to get this recipe right, but I think its there! I hope you’ll try them.

    Lauren – Yay! I love feedback! I’m so glad you enjoyed it. Re: alternative sweetners, check our Catriona’s comment just below yours.

    Catriona – Thanks for the feedback! I’m glad to hear that the other sweeteners worked so well. Did you use 1-3/4 cups WW flour or 2 cups? It is heavier than spelt so I could see that you would need more liquid, or less flour. My note to add more is probably incorrect…

    coconutjo – Thanks! 🙂

  16. Thanks for the quick reply and advice! I’ve been saddened when travelling to discover that so many farmer’s markets don’t run in Winter. It makes sense, but it’s still unhappy-making! I hadn’t heard of Feast before, so will definitely check that out. Maybe tomorrow though… this rain today is making me keen to stay indoors 🙂

  17. yeah I’ll definitely use a little less flour next time (I used 2 cups)… It was bog standard whole meal flour. I don’t know how thick agave and rice syrup are in comparison to FruitSweet, but they seemed to work fine. I probably ended up using nearly a cup of sweetener instead of 3/4. The dough was fairly crumbly, it didn’t stick well and after cooking they were also a bit crumbly, but after they’ve cooled down they’re perfect and chewy!

  18. WONDERFUL pictures!

    – The Nutrition Nut

  19. Found these through Tastespotting under an egg-free search. Soooooo yummy! 🙂 I used all whole wheat flour, pure maple syrup, melted butter, grain-sweetened chocolate chips and left out the cherries and oat bran (I rolled some oats fresh so I figured the bran was still lurking about). Even after these adjustments, the cookies still taste just like you describe! I just thought I’d thank you for the lovely egg-free recipe! 🙂

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