Saturday, January 29, 2011

Tropical Oatstacks (with Mixed Dried Berries): A Healthy, Unique Cookie Treat From Mark Bittman

I have had Mark Bittman's "The Food Matters Cookbook: 500 Revolutionary Recipes for Better Living" sitting beside my bed, covered in post it notes tabs marking recipes I want to make for the past couple of months, but sadly had not cooked anything from it. Today I wanted something sweet, a banana muffin or maybe a healthy-ish oatmeal cookie, so I opened up the book and finally settled on a compromise with Bittman's Tropical Oatstacks.

Bittman says, "Different and amazingly good cookies that fall somewhere between banana bread and macaroons. The not-to-sweet oatstacks contain no sugar except for the natural sugars in the bananas, but if you have a real sweet tooth, you can roll the mounds of dough in sugar before you bake them. These are good vegan too: Just substitute vegetable oil for the butter." Sounded pretty good to me. ;-)

Since I am a huge fan of Bittman and his "Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating" so I knew that I would like the follow-up cookbook. Bittman continues his philosophy of consuming a plant-heavy diet, full of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, whole grains and unprocessed foods.

Bittman has 5 basic principles for healthy, conscious eating--all of which I support:
  1. Eat fewer animal products than average.
  2. Eat all the plants you can manage.
  3. Make legumes and whole grains part of your life.
  4. Avoid processed foods.
  5. Everything else is a treat--and you can have treats daily.
It's a sane way of looking at your diet and taking care of yourself, your health and the planet. For example--here's some of what he says about Desserts: "Desserts are treats, but that doesn't mean you have to throw all of the Food Matters principles out of the window in order to indulge. On the other hand, most of us don't want constant offerings of super "healthy" or vegan desserts. So what you have here is a meeting on middle ground: satisfying desserts made from real food, but completely from their traditional counterparts in that fruits, whole grains and nuts are the primary focus. To the extent that butter (and other dairy) and sugar are included, they're in supporting roles."

The recipes are the usual Bittman--simple and easy to adapt to your taste or what ingredients you have in your pantry. With lots of supporting material on cooking seasonally, setting up a pantry, making meals vegan, etc. it is a useful tome for anyone looking to eat mindfully. Another Bittman winner for me that I will be pulling out often to cook and get ideas from.

Tropical Oatstacks
Adapted From "The Food Matters Cookbook" by Mark Bittman
(Makes 2 to 3 Dozen)
Time: About 30 minutes, plus time to cool

4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing the pans
3 large ripe bananas
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup chopped cashews or macadamia nuts
1 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 2 baking sheets with a little butter.

Put the bananas in a large bowl and mash them well with a fork or potato masher. Stir in the melted butter and vanilla. In a separate bowl, mix together the oats, nuts, shredded coconut, baking powder, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the banana mixture and stir until just combined.

Drop tablespoon-sized mounds of dough about 3 inches apart on the baking sheets. Bake, rotating the pans as necessary, until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool for about 2 minutes on the sheets before using a spatula to transfer the cookies to a wire rack to finish cooling. Store in a tightly covered container at room temperature for no more than a day or two.

Notes/Results: A soft and tasty little cookie full of good banana flavor. I did make a vegan version, using half of an Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Stick. I also wanted a bit of color in them, so I added 1/2 cup of mixed dried berries, which was nice. Not too sweet, tender and chewy--a couple of these little cookies make a great snack with a cup of tea. Bittman says to store them at room temperature for just a day or two, but I found that they freeze pretty well too. I will make these again--they would be fun with cacao nibs or dark chocolate chips in them too.

I thought I should send these delightful little bites of guilt-free goodness to the Alex at A Moderate Life's Tackling Bittman Blog Hop this week. My pal girlichef is hosting this month and also giving away a copy of this must-have book--follow this link for all of the details.

Happy Weekend!


  1. They sound amazing! I am definitely making these.

  2. I need something tropical in my life now that it's completely inundated with snow! These sound wonderful! And yeah, I really need that cocokbook. Seriously.

  3. Oh my gosh...these are AWESOME! I love everything in them and I'm with Joanne...I totally need something tropical in my life right now. Beauties. Thanks so much for sharing them w/ Tackling Bittman this month, Deb!

  4. Deb, I have been reading so many posts on a variety of blogs, including yours, about Mark Bittman. I'd like to purchase one or two of his cookbooks since everyone that I read (their blogs) just raves about his recipes! I think I am simply missing out big time on this culinary/epicurean experience. Which cookbook do you recommend (for starters, if he has more than one?)

    Thanks, Roz

  5. sounds yummy! have been debating whether to get this book, my shelf is a bit overloaded with cookbooks...will think about it a little more :)

  6. These look just perfect for an afternoon pick-me-up or an after dinner treat with a cup of tea. I wish I had some bananas right now. I love treats that can be frozen so I can keep DSO from eating too many.

  7. Foodycat--they are quite tasty--hope you like them.

    Joanne--You do need it. Did you enter w/ Heather? ;-)

    girlichef--I was happy I made them--they really hit the spot--thanks for hosting this month. I can't seem to get it together to do the first week so your idea to do a monthly round-up was great. ;-)

    Roz--I like Food Matters but if I were starting out with Bittman I would do my favorite all time Bittman and one of my most used cookbooks (small, fast, quick recipe sketches) "Kitchen Express" and then followed up by either "How to Cook Everything" or "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian"--both are fabulous resources.

    Kat--it is a great book but I totally understand about the cookbook overload! ;-)

    Nancy--thanks! ;-)

    Arlene--I like freezeable items too--helps me not waste and good for portion control for sure. ;-)

  8. Ooh, they remind me of Nikki's Healthy Cookies from 101cookbooks. I love those, so I am sure I will love these, too. Glad to hear they freeze well. :)

  9. These are super cute! They remind me of some coconut oatmeal cookies I made last weekend and will be posting sometime soon :)

  10. Those look really good, bookmarking!

  11. I love these Deb! Plus, like you said, they are open to interpretation. Cocoa nibs, cinnamon chips, more dried fruit, all delicious ideas for changing these up. I really need to get my hands on this book!

  12. This book is on my list. The Oatstacks look so great! We start half marathon training this week and I'm looking for something just like this to fuel (and reward!) the running. :)

  13. I love that banana is used as the sweetener for these! The flavors sound completely delicious - especially with macadamia nuts!


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