No Tricks, Just Sweet Treats

If colorful leaves and pumpkin spice lattes on the coffee shop menus are the official heralds of fall, perhaps the pile-up of Halloween candy on supermarket shelves is the unofficial sign that autumn is in full swing.  Which reminds me that nature has a sweet treat of its own – the raisin.  Though this tiny fruit contains sugar, it’s also bursting with fiber and a variety of vitamins and minerals.  It’s totally portable, easily stirs into everything from salads and meatloaves to muffins and yogurt and is just as good eaten by itself.   And, data presented this week at the American Dietetic Association’s Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo suggested that eating 3.5 ounces of raisins each day significantly decreases levels of circulating oxidized LDL, a marker for coronary artery disease risk, and increases plasma antioxidant capacity (1).  Finally, there’s a sweet you can feel good about eating (in moderation, of course)!

Here’s one of my favorite ways to use raisins – in a soft, wonderfully good cookie bite that bursts with the flavors of fall – raisins, butternut squash, pumpkin pie spice and maple –  without providing loads of  fat and calories.  These are mini cookies and perfectly sized for school parties, Halloween treat bags or any time you need to satisfy a craving for something sweet.

Reference: Barnes, J et al. September, 2011. JADA Supplement 2, A-46.

Pumpkin Spice Cookie Bites

Makes about 25 servings

 Ingredients

¾ cup cubed butternut squash, fresh or frozen

3 tablespoons light brown sugar, packed

¼ cup extra light olive oil

2 tablespoons maple syrup

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

½ teaspoon baking powder or ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar + 1/8 teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

Optional:

¼ cup raisins or dried cranberries (or a combination)

¼ cup toasted, unsalted sunflower seeds, chopped walnuts or chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Place squash in a microwave-safe container, and add 2 tablespoons of water.  Cover container loosely with a lid, and microwave on high 3 minutes or until squash is soft.  Drain, and mash with a fork.  Set squash aside.  In a large bowl, mix squash, sugar, oil, maple syrup and vanilla until well-combined.  In a medium bowl, sift together flour, spices, baking powder or cream of tartar, baking soda and salt.  Fold into squash mixture.  Stir in dried fruit and/or sunflower seeds, nuts or chips, if desired.  Drop cookies by rounded teaspoonful onto cookie sheets, smoothing cookie tops with the back of a spoon.  Bake 6-8 minutes or until bottoms are lightly browned.  Let cookies cool 10 minutes on cookie sheets before removing to wire racks to cool completely.

Per Serving (made with raisins and sunflower seeds): 64 Cal (41% from Fat, 5% from Protein, 54% from Carb); 1 g Protein; 3 g Tot Fat; 0 g Sat Fat; 2 g Mono Fat; 9 g Carb; 0 g Fiber; 4 g Sugar; 12 mg Calcium; 0 mg Iron; 47 mg Sodium; 0 mg Cholesterol

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