It’s about Holiday time and my kitchen is filling up with the succulent smells of mulling spices, whatever’s in the slow cooker, and at the moment, Healthy Vanilla Ricotta Cookies with Yogurt Icing. Traditionally, every year the weekend after Thanksgiving I begin making my cookie varieties and freeze what we’ll have for guests when Christmas comes.
I do classic sugar cookies, peanut butter blossoms, chocolate chip, thumbprints, hello dolly bar cookies, some type of brownie, and an old family ricotta cookie recipe. These are my favorite, but I have to admit that after I eat them I feel like there’s a huge ball on the middle of my stomach. This could perhaps be that I eat far too many of them and one might argue this could happen with any cookie, (likely the case), I still wanted to see if I can vary the recipe a bit so that Tommy and his toddler friends can enjoy cookies too. I don’t like to give him the ones with the bleached flours and granulated sugars because he doesn’t need them for things to taste great. No one really does.
Someday in the near future, I plan to set up my whole cookie roster with all healthy cookies. Baby steps.
The Healthy Swaps
Ricotta cookies call for a TON of white flour (like 4 cups). My mission this year was to reduce the flour intake and switch up the flours entirely. Using coconut flour helped out a lot because it’s so drying that you don’t need as much. The second flour is whole wheat, and though not gluten-free, still much healthier than the bleached flour.
For the sugar….wait for it…..DATE PASTE! Now I know what you’re thinking. How in the hell is this going to taste good? Trust me folks, you won’t even know the difference. During one of the recipe testings, my husband snuck 3 into his sleeve and I smiled devilishly because he had no idea. When I told him, he didn’t believe me. This made my whole night for I knew that once Tommy and his friends tried them they would love them too;)
Date paste is super dooper easy to make and you can use it to sweeten almost anything. If you're freaking out right now, don't. The recipe is below.
There is fat in this recipe and I’m glad about that. I do not veer away from fats though I try to keep them on the healthier side by doing grass-fed butter and local farm fresh eggs. Here's why:
Vitamin A,B & E
Hens that feed in an open pasture are said to have significantly more vitamin E and Vitamin A in their eggs as well as more B vitamins.
Omega 3 fats
These heart-healthy fats are nearly doubled in eggs that are pasture raised. We as a society are very deficient in these anti-inflammatory fats and eggs can be a great source, especially if we choose the right ones. They help lower the risk of diseases like arthritis, heart disease, cancer, and other autoimmune or inflammatory disorders.
CLA-aka the Weight Loss fat
Conjugated Linoleic Acid is an omega 6 fatty acid, and the primary fat in grass-fed meats and milks. Recent studies have shown that these fats can help reduce body fat significantly when combined with exercise, aid in immune system related illnesses like asthma, and control glucose levels to help control insulin resistance. For this reason, any nutrition clients I’ve seen who are diabetic or struggle with insulin resistance are told to add more foods like this into their diets.
Fun Ingredient Alert
Ok, so I also happen to be a little obsessed with Vanilla bean paste. Being a vanilla junkie I love to see the little specks of vanilla in my batter. If you don’t have an actual vanilla bean lying around, (which most people don’t), it’s amazing stuff. You use it the same as you would vanilla extract, and it’s perfect if you’re making a recipe where you want to add vanilla flavor but keep a thicker consistency.
Busy parents tip
Make date paste ahead of time.
How to make date paste:
8 oz dates (I used this whole bag)
Place dates in medium sized bowl and cover with hot water until they get nice & soft. (If you have more time, you can cover with colder water and let sit overnight). Pour the dates along with the water into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. This will make roughly 2 cups of date paste so you’ll have some left over for lots of fun things like spreading on toast, or using as a sweetener for anything at all.
Healthy Vanilla Ricotta Cookies with Yogurt Icing: Kid friendly
1 cup coconut flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
½ tsp ground sea salt
1.5 cups date paste (recipe above)
½ cup (1 stick) grass fed butter
½ tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract (extra points for vanilla bean paste!)
3 pasture eggs (or organic grass fed)
1 1/3 cup ricotta cheese
In a medium bowl, whisk dry ingredients together and set aside.
In stand up mixer or large bowl cream the butter with the vanilla, and almond extract on medium speed until thoroughly blended. Add the date paste, eggs, and cheese and blend well.
Add the flour mixture slowly to the wet mixture until just combined.
Cover bowl with foil and place in fridge while oven preheats. (you can skip this step, I just prefer to work with dough that’s chilled a bit and find it bakes better).
Preheat oven to 350.
Shape mixture into 1-2 tsp sized balls onto a pan lined with silicon pad or parchment paper.
Bake 10-15 minutes (longer or shorter depending on size of your cookie)
Makes 4-5 dozen cookies. Should keep in fridge in a tightly sealed container about a week.
For a richer icing, (and healthier actually), go for full fat yogurt
½ cup plain yogurt (or low sugar vanilla)
½ tsp vanilla bean paste
2 Tbsp date paste
This type of icing when kept in the fridge will harden, but only a little bit. If you want an icing that’s harder, ie if you’re wrapping or transporting them, you can use powdered (confectioner’s sugar) instead, though I like the toasty flavor the coconut sugar brings.
Nutrition Tidbit: Did you know?
Though coconut sugar has the same amount of calories per gram as regular table sugar, there’s less fructose which is a good thing, and it’s why I bake with it almost exclusively. Fructose is best avoided since it gets metabolized differently than other sweeteners. Much of it gets filtered into the liver since the digestive tract doesn’t absorb it efficiently. This sets us up for a host of what I call “metabolic storms”, ie insulin resistance, fatty liver disease, and obesity to name a few.
Enjoy your cookies! PS. WANT MORE WELLNESS INSPIRATION? BE SURE TO SIGN UP FOR MY MONTHLY NEWSLETTER. GET IT HERE!
Blankson, H., Fagertun, H., Gudmundsen, O., Stakkestad, J.A., Thom, & E., Wadstein, J., "Conjugated Linoleic Acid Reduces Body Fat Mass in Overweight and Obese Humans." J. Nutr., 130: 2943-2948, 2000.