Healthy Recipes: Cookies & Brownies

Butter makes cookies crisp and rich, and there are some cookie recipes where you just can’t avoid it—in butter cookies, for example. There’s really no point in trying to make low-fat versions of such cookies, and so we haven’t.

Brownie - Digital Vision Image

But certain cookies work well with less fat, such as Italian biscotti, which are crisped by being twice-baked. And some cookies naturally have no fat, such as macaroons, which are made with egg whites. For cakey cookies, like brownies, we’ve applied the same rules as for baking cakes.

Fig Squares with a Walnut Crust

Makes 16 squares

Fig paste on top of a buttery-tasting crust makes a satisfying bar cookie. The crust can be baked several hours or up to a day ahead, and without the topping makes a delicious shortbread.

1/2 cup walnuts
1 cup flour
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons grated orange zest
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup walnut oil
1 cup dried figs (8 ounces), stemmed and coarsely chopped
2/3 cup port wine
1/4 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon cardamom

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. On a baking sheet, toast the walnuts for 7 minutes, or until crisp and fragrant. Leave the oven on.
  2. Transfer the walnuts to a food processor. Add the flour, confectioners’ sugar, orange zest, and salt, and process until finely ground. Add the walnut oil and process until evenly moistened.
  3. Press the mixture into an 8-inch square metal baking pan. With the tines of a fork, prick the dough all over. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the crust is crisp. Cool the crust on a wire rack, but leave the oven on.
  4. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine the figs, port, orange juice, honey, and cardamom. Bring to a simmer. Cover and cook until the figs are soft and most of the liquid has been absorbed, about 20 minutes.
  5. Transfer the mixture to a food processor and process to a smooth paste. Spread the fig paste over the cooled crust and put back in the oven and bake for 20 minutes to set the topping. Cool in the pan on a wire rack before cutting into 16 squares.

From The Wellness Kitchen, by the editors of the University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter and the staff of the Wellness Kitchen

per square: 145 calories, 5.7g total fat (0.5g saturated), 0mg cholesterol, 2g dietary fiber, 21g carbohydrate, 2g protein, 39mg sodium.

A good source of: omega-3 fatty acids.

Peanut Butter Blondies

Makes 16 blondies

Here’s a blondie that does not have a killer amount of fat.

1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup chunky peanut butter
2 tablespoons extra-light olive oil
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup prune butter (lekvar)
2 large egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray an 8-inch square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  2. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat the peanut butter, oil, brown sugar, and corn syrup until creamy. Beat in the prune butter until well combined. Beat in the egg whites and vanilla until well combined. Fold in the flour mixture.
  3. Spoon the batter into the pan. Bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack.

From The Wellness Kitchen, by the editors of the University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter and the staff of the Wellness Kitchen

per blondie: 138 calories, 4.4g total fat (0.8g saturated), 0mg cholesterol, 1g dietary fiber, 23g carbohydrate, 3g protein, 122mg sodium.

Fudgy Pecan Brownies

Makes 12 brownies

Prune butter (pureed dried plums) helps to make these brownies especially fudgy. Look for prune butter (also called lekvar) in the jams and jelly aisle of the supermarket.

1/4 cup pecans
2/3 cup flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup prune butter (lekvar)
2 tablespoons extra-light olive oil
2 large egg whites
1 tablespoon water
1/4 cup dried cherries, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray an 8-inch square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. In a small baking pan, toast the pecans in the oven until crisp and fragrant, about 7 minutes. Coarsely chop.
  3. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa powder, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  4. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat the brown sugar, prune butter, oil, egg whites, and water until thick and well combined. Stir in the flour mixture until just combined. Gently fold in the pecans, cherries, and chocolate chips.
  5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out slightly wet and the sides of the brownies begin to pull away from the pan. Cool the brownies in the pan on a wire rack.

From The Wellness Kitchen, by the editors of the University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter and the staff of the Wellness Kitchen

per brownie: 166 calories, 5.8g total fat (1.3g saturated), 0mg cholesterol, 2g dietary fiber, 28g carbohydrate, 2g protein, 106mg sodium.

Toasted Oatmeal Cookies with Cranberries

Makes 42 cookies

Toasted oats and flaxseeds contribute a slightly nutty flavor to these cookies, while adding heart-healthy soluble fiber and omega-3 fatty acids.

1 1/4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1/4 cup flaxseeds
3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons extra-light olive oil
2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup dried cranberries

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread the oats on a jelly-roll pan and bake for 10 minutes, stirring midway, until light golden. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly. Leave the oven on.
  2. In a spice mill or coffee grinder, grind the flaxseeds until they’re the texture of cornmeal. In a large bowl, stir together the ground flaxseeds, toasted oats, flour, baking soda, and salt.
  3. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat the oil, butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat until well combined. Beat in the vanilla. Stir in the flour mixture. Stir in the dried cranberries.
  4. Spray 2 large baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray. Drop the dough by tablespoons, 2 inches apart, on the baking sheets. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until set and lightly golden. Midway through the baking, reverse the baking sheets from front to back and top to bottom for more even cooking. Cool the cookies on a wire rack.

From The Wellness Kitchen, by the editors of the University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter and the staff of the Wellness Kitchen

per cookie: 60 calories, 2.2g total fat (0.6g saturated), 7mg cholesterol, 1g dietary fiber, 9g carbohydrate, 1g protein, 46mg sodium.

A good source of: fiber, omega-3 fatty acids.

Carrot-Pistachio Biscotti

Makes 30 biscotti

Biscotti (which means “twice cooked” in Italian) are crisp cookies intended for dunking into coffee or tea (and sometimes wine). To make biscotti, a log of cookie dough is baked once, then cut into slices that are baked again to make them crunchy. The carrots and carrot juice add a faint sweetness, a nice golden color, and beta carotene.

1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons yellow cornmeal
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large carrot, finely shredded
1/4 cup coarsely chopped pistachio nuts
3 tablespoons finely chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup carrot juice

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a large baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cornmeal, lemon zest, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt. Stir in the shredded carrot, pistachios, and apricots. Add the carrot juice and stir until a firm dough forms.
  3. Shape the dough into a log 15 inches long by 3 inches wide by ½ inch high. Place on the baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, or until firmly set and golden brown.
  4. Remove the baking sheet from the oven, but leave the oven on. Let the log cool slightly, then slice crosswise but on the diagonal into 1-inch-thick cookies. Return the cookies to the oven and bake for 20 minutes, turning them over after 10 minutes, until they are lightly colored and crisp.

From The Wellness Kitchen, by the editors of the University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter and the staff of the Wellness Kitchen

per cookie: 45 calories, 5g total fat (0.1g saturated), 0mg cholesterol, 1g dietary fiber, 9g carbohydrate, 1g protein, 25mg sodium.

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at HealthCommunities.com

Published: 12 Aug 2010

Last Modified: 12 Jan 2015