Cookies with Perks

Cranberry Orange Oatmeal Cookies postCookies with perks.

That’s dietitian-speak for a cookie that gives you great flavor AND lots of health benefits. So put those extra bags of cranberries to use that are in your freezer (leftover from Thanksgiving!) and whip up a batch of these easy cookies: Cranberry Orange Walnut Oatmeal Cookies.

Hot & Spicy Grammy Perks:
*Oats for soluble fiber to help promote healthy cholesterol levels and heart

*Cranberries for natural phytonutrients that help promote healthy urinary tract and ward off urinary tract infections. And even help with heart health and fight inflammation.

*Walnuts for plant-based omega-3 fatty acids for healthier heart.

*75% whole grain goodness from white whole wheat flour and oats; whole grains help provide satiety, offer many vitamins, minerals and fiber and helps promote healthy heart, blood pressure and digestive system.

Cooking with Grandkids:
*Young toddlers can help measure flour and sugar, whisk flour mixture and add ingredients to mixer, and even help turn mixer on and off and scrape sides of bowl. They can even click the cookie scoop and help get dough on cookie sheet – as long as they’re old enough to have a strong grip with the scoop.

Great opportunity to teach all young children oven safety, too.

Liam (2 1/2) and Elijah (5 1/2) making Papa Pancakes with Grammy Kim. Aug 2015

Liam (2 1/2) and Elijah (5 1/2)  baking with Grammy Kim.

Eli Grammy Aprons

                                                    Elijah & Grammy Kim in our favorite aprons.                                                           



Cranberry Orange Walnut Oatmeal Cookies
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: snack, dessert
Serves: 48-52 cookies
  • ¾ cup white whole wheat flour
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) butter, softened
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¾ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 heaping teaspoon orange zest (from 1 medium orange)
  • 3 cups quick-cooking oats (dry)
  • 1½ cups coarsely chopped fresh or frozen cranberries
  • ⅔ cup each butterscotch and chocolate chips
  1. Heat oven to 375°F. In a small bowl, whisk together both flours, baking soda and powder and salt. Set aside. In large bowl of electric mixer, combine butter, sugars, eggs and vanilla until nearly blended. Mix in orange zest. Mix in oats. Add cranberries and both chips and mix again just until thoroughly blended. Drop by rounded tablespoons onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake about 8-9 minutes for a chewier cookie (slightly browned) or 9-11 for a crispier cookie. Cool cookies on cookie sheet about 1-2 minutes before removing cookies to wire racks to completely cool. Store in tightly covered container. Makes about 48-52 cookies.


Kid Friendly Treats & Desserts

I’m headed to the Indiana State Fair for the first of five cooking demonstrations. Today’s topic: The Dietitian Does Dessert and Kid-Friendly Treats. I’ll be showcasing four of my favorites. Several of these, like the clusters, trail mix and dip, are super easy and the kids can make themselves or help you. Get them involved….and they’ll be more inclined to enjoy these nutrient-rich treats!

Decadent Chocolate Fruit & Nut Clusters

 1 bag (12 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips

1½ cups dried fruit, chopped if necessary*

1 cup finely chopped nuts*
Cover a large baking sheet with parchment or wax paper; set aside. Melt chocolate chips in double boiler over slightly simmering water.  (Create your own double-boiler by using a small saucepan or heat-proof bowl over a bigger saucepan that contains the simmering water.) Combine the dried fruits and nuts in a small bowl. Add to melted chocolate and stir to completely coat all ingredients. Using a measuring tablespoon, dip leveled clusters onto covered baking sheet about 1-inch apart. They will look uneven and shaggy. Refrigerate 30 minutes or until clusters are hardened and set. Store clusters in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator. Serve cold or at room temperature. The clusters taste most flavorful at room temperature, however.  Makes 30 to 36 clusters.

 *Cherry Walnut Version:
Dried Fruit:  1½ cup dried tart cherries     Nuts: 1 cup chopped walnuts

 *Date Fig Walnut Version:
Dried Fruit: ¾ cup chopped dried figs and ¾ cup chopped dates      Nuts: 1 cup chopped walnuts

 *Create your own version using any mixture of dried fruits and nuts: Cherries, cranberries and pecans. Dried apricots and almonds. Golden raisins and pistachios. Dates and cashews.









Pumpkin Cheesecake Dip with Apples & Pears

 1 package (8 oz.) 1/3-less fat cream cheese

1 can (15 oz.) pure pumpkin      

½ cup firmly packed brown sugar

1½ teaspoons pumpkin pie spice 

Apples, pears and Asian pears, cut into thick slices

 Combine cream cheese, pumpkin, brown sugar and pumpkin pie spice in a food processor until thoroughly blended. Chill at least one hour before serving. Serve with slices of fresh pears, apples and Asian pears. Makes about 2 ¾ cups dip (11 servings of ¼-cup each)

   Hike Bike & Swim Trail Mix           

 2 cups plain, frosted or honey-nut O-shaped cereal

1 cup whole-grain goldfish crackers

1 cup honey-roasted peanuts

1/2 cup dried tart cherries

3/4 cup raisins

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Keep in a tightly covered container or Ziploc bag.

Makes about 5 1/2 cups (or 22 servings of 1/4-cup each)


Whole Grain Oatmeal Raisin & Date Bars  (100% whole grain) 

½ cup butter (1 stick), softened slightly

1/3 cup canola oil

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

½ cup granulated sugar

2 extra large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1½ cups white whole-wheat flour (prefer King Arthur brand)*                            

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground allspice

½ teaspoon salt

3 cups old-fashioned oats, uncooked

2/3 cup raisins*

1 package (8 ounces) chopped dates



 Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat 10x15x1-inch jelly roll baking pan with vegetable cooking spray. In a large bowl with electric mixer, beat butter, oil and sugars until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well. Add flour, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice and salt and mix thoroughly. Add oats, raisins and dates and mix until blended. Spread or pat batter in pan and bake 22 to 25 minutes or until light golden brown. Bars may appear slightly sticky in center with toothpick and they will appear a tad “puffed”. They’ll deflate once cooled. Be sure not to overcook, as bars harden slightly as they cool. Cool on wire rack; cut into bars and store in tightly covered container. Bars can be frozen. Simply wrap individual bars in plastic wrap and place all bars in zippered freezer bag.  Makes about 24 to 30 bars. 

*Toss raisins in small bowl with about a teaspoon of flour before adding to batter. This helps separate all the raisins. 

 Enjoy with a glass of 1% low fat milk for a calcium, vitamin D and protein boost.

ABC’s of Treats, Sweets & Desserts – Creative Back to School Lunches Part 3

A = Attitude. What’s your attitude about sweets and treats as a Mom or Dad? I’m hoping it’s a healthy one, which in my opinion means never saying these foods are off-limits, “bad” or “junk.”  You realize and respect that some foods contain more nutrients than others, and some foods are meant to be enjoyed regardless of their nutrient value. So, you model this all-inclusive attitude as a parent, and by doing so, teach your kids how to have “healthy respect” for ALL foods.  Treats, sweets and desserts can be enjoyed and what matters is “how often” and “how much.” They ultimately need to be balanced within your overall eating plan. And just FYI: I enjoy a treat Every Day.

B = Balance.  You balance those sweet, treat and dessert calories in two ways. First, portion size. It’s reasonable to enjoy four chocolate chip cookies, but do you need to eat one DOZEN in a sitting? No, not if you’ve applied and practiced healthy attitude (see above if you need reminding!) because you’ve given yourself permission to eat anything. In moderation. In sensible portions. The second way to balance sweets, treats and desserts, especially in packed lunches, is by alternating those choices that are pure, unadulterated decadence (think Triple Chocolate Cake with sugar, butter, white flour, eggs = pure decadence) with those offering some “perks” or “nutrient benefits” with that decadence (think fruits and veggies in traditional desserts).

C = Coupon Fun. Create a paper coupon template “One Trade Allowed” on your computer, print it out once a week and place it front and center in your child’s lunch.  This gives her/him permission to trade a dessert, sweet or treat with someone else at their lunch table!

D = Desserts with Perks and Benefits include my recipes for Whole Grain Oatmeal Raisin Date Bars, Blondies with Chips and Walnuts, Frosted Whole Grain Pumpkin Bars and even Cherry Chocolate Clusters. (Use the “Find one of Kim’s recipes” search bar on the right of my Blog). Or, if you just want to pick something up at the store, opt for oatmeal raisin cookies, pudding cups (calcium), trail mix with nuts, seeds, fruits and candy pieces, chocolate-covered raisins/dried fruit or chocolate-covered peanuts or almonds.


Happy, healthy eating in this New School Year!

Vegetarian Ideas – Creative Back to School Lunches Part 2

If you’re packing lunch for your child who likes to eat the “flexitarian” way – eating both meat and meatless meals occasionally – consider something other than PB&J for those meatless days.

Beyond the Basic PB&J. Instead of always reaching for PB, try different nut butters like cashew, almond, sunflower or soynut. All contain protein plus valuable vitamins and minerals. Spread on any type of bread (see part 1 of this lunch series) – whole wheat cinnamon swirl is especially delicious – and top with sliced apples or pears, dried chopped figs or dates, dried tart cherries or raisins. Sliced banana and kiwi are outstanding on nut butter sandwiches.

Grain Salads.  Take any grain, like barley, quinoa, brown rice or couscous, and toss with purchased light Italian dressing, then add a bunch of chopped veggies (raw or cooked). Bell peppers, zucchini and squash, tomatoes, cucumber, broccoli, cauliflower, roasted eggplant…. Be creative! Try using Quinoa more often, though for the true vegetarians in your family, as it’s the only grain that is a complete protein. That means it contains all the essential amino acids your body needs.   

Round ‘n round. Make pinwheels with light cream cheese spread on whole wheat flour tortillas and top with lots of sliced, chopped or shredded veggies like carrots, colorful bell peppers, zucchini and summer squash. Even rinsed and drained canned black or pinto beans for a protein boost. Roll-up and slice into a bunch of pinwheels.

White Bean Dip. Aka, hummus. Purchased hummus is a real timesaver, but it’s easy to make a big batch yourself on Sunday for the week ahead. My favorite recipe is below. All types of white canned beans like cannellini, great northern and chick peas work well in hummus/white bean dips. And you can be as creative as you want with seasonings and ingredients. Serve as a dip with whole wheat crackers, fresh cut-up veggies or use to spread on those pinwheels.

Trail Mix. Since trail mix contains nuts, seeds, whole-grains and fruits, typically, they can really pack in the nutrients and protein. Create your own version or try my “Let’s Go Fishin” recipe with whole-grain cereal, whole-grain goldfish, dried fruits and honey-roasted peanuts.

Kim’s White Bean Dip

1 can (15 oz.) great northern beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (15 oz.) cannellini beans (white kidney beans), drained and rinsed
2/3 cup chopped green onion
2 finely chopped garlic cloves or 1 to 2 teaspoons ready-to-use minced garlic
4 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste)
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt

Place all ingredients in food processor bowl and pulse until smooth and thoroughly blended. Serve immediately and refrigerate leftover dip.  Makes about 2 ½ cups (about 10 servings of ¼ cup each)   Customize your white bean dip by adding: roasted red pepper, Parmesan cheese, roasted garlic, black or green olives, fresh dill, and/or chives.

Nutrition facts for ¼ cup:  115 calories, 6 g protein, 17 g carbohydrate, 3 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 300 mg potassium, 1.5 mg iron, 50 mg calcium, 5 g fiber.

 Let’s Go Fishin’ Snack Mix

 2 cups frosted o-shaped or honey-nut o-shaped cereal

1 cup whole-grain goldfish crackers

1 cup honey-roasted peanuts

1/2 cup dried tart cherries

3/4 cup raisins

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Makes about 5 1/2 cups

(about 22 servings of 1/4-cup each)

Beyond the Boring Sandwich: Creative Back to School Lunches Part 1

First things first, though. Yes, you can pack a healthy – and safe – lunch for your children. Just use many, not one, of those freezable ice packs. Put them on the bottom, top and sides of the perishable lunch items.  I bring this up due to this morning’s report about one study showing preschoolers packed lunches were unsafe, and in the danger zone (between 40°F and 140°F).

Instead of overreacting and not packing our kids’ lunches, let’s be prudent and use this one study as a reminder we always need to keep food safety top of mind.  Make sure your own refrigerator is at 40°F and the freezer at 0°F. Invest in thermometers for both and check them frequently.

Now, on to Shapes, LO’s and Dunk ‘n Dip and Better Bread creative lunch box ideas!

Shapes. Every food in the lunch has to be the same shape foods, like all circles, squares or rectangular. My favorite – and one of the easiest and fastest – is the Circle. Choose round cheese slices, round cold cuts and spinach leaves and place on either toasted waffles or whole-grain bagel. Include round veggies: slices of cucumber, zucchini or summer squash, carrot coins or green peas. Include round fruits: apple, banana, kiwi, orange, grapefruit, grapes, blueberries, cherries, peach, plum or nectarine. For squares, use pineapple chunks, diced cheese and ham cubes. Rectangular shaped foods – and you need to be a little open minded here – could be strips of chicken, pork or beef, strips of red, green and yellow bell peppers, asparagus or jicama and slices of apples, pear or long strips of watermelon, cantaloupe or honeydew melon.

 LO’s. That’s my lingo for Left-Overs, one of the best timesavers when it comes to food/cooking. Simply re-use last night’s dinner, like a pork chop, baked potato and honey-glazed carrots, by tossing strips of the pork with diced potatoes and tossing lightly in BBQ sauce. Place in a whole wheat flour tortilla and roll-up. Serve honey-glazed carrots as is – since they are different than the same old hard baby carrots. Throw in some fruit, like apple, pear or dried plums.

 Dunk ‘n Dip. Everything gets dunked or dipped! Try lettuce roll-ups with strips of beef, pork, tofu or chicken, add some beans, shredded carrot, chopped water chestnuts, chopped peanuts and serve with a tiny container of hot or sweet chili sauce for dipping. Or make cheese-ham/turkey-pineapple kabobs and serve with honey mustard sauce Dip veggies –broccoli, carrots, sugar snap peas and even the new orange, purple and green cauliflowers – in light Ranch dressing or Hummus or Bean Dips. Best dipping fruits include strawberries, apple and pear wedges, pineapple, bananas and kiwi. Yogurt is the dipping choice for fruits.  

 Better Breads. Just varying the bread could make all the difference between mundane and magnificent! Instead of the same white or whole-wheat bread slices, use whole-grain hamburger or hotdog buns, bagels, waffles, English muffins, focaccia, hearty bakery breads in flavors like rosemary-olive or parmesan-garlic or flatbreads like Naan. Even cinnamon-raisin bread or bagels is a nice change for peanut butter sandwiches. Or serve multiple “mini sandwiches” on mini bagels, mini rolls or Hawaiian buns or whole-grain crackers.

 Apples get A+ for Creativity. Never underestimate the power of the apple to give new life to old favorites. Simply add sliced apples to your favorite cold cut and cheese sandwich, peanut butter sandwich or roll-up or wrap, pita pocket sandwich, or even gourmet bakery bread sandwiches. The sweet and crunch of apple slices compliments so many flavors….plus they help you get even closer to “Half Your Plate Fruits & Veggies” at every meal! Pears can be used as well.