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Healthier Pumpkin-Spice Cookies

Healthier than what, you might ask? The pumpkin spice craze has begun, and pumpkin spice lattes--and variants of them--are out in force. At 420 calories for a "grande" (A.K.A. large, 16-ounce), a pumpkin spice latte is more than a bit over my "treat" calorie budget. For that many calories, I want something I can sink my teeth into--like lunch. The 50 grams of sugar in the pumpkin spice lattes also is excessive, and I'm not keen on the mono and diglycerides and sulfiting agents. So, what to do? Well, I'm working on a more nutritious version of a pumpkin spice latte, but, in the meantime, I decided to opt for pumpkin-spice cookies. In this case, a soft, squishy, cake-like cookie rather than a crispy version. I also wanted to limit the amount of saturated fat in my cookies and add some whole grains. The cookie I came up with is quite tasty and, without the topping, not terribly sweet--just right for a tea-time snack. With the the caramel topping, the cookie is definitely in the dessert category. The caramel complements the pumpkin flavor and adds a sweet, butterscotch crunch to the cookie. The taste-testers in my husband's office really liked the iced version of the cookie. Either way, the cookies are a treat you can savor without the guilt of indulgence in a "grande" pumpkin spice latte (that's 52 grams of carbs! More than a serving of spaghetti!).

Healthier Pumpkin-Spice Cookies

Healthier Pumpkin-Spice Cookies -- Makes 18

1/2 cup of canola oil

1 cup of pumpkin puree (solid pack, not pie filling)

1 teaspoon of vanilla

1 teaspoon of butter flavoring

1 cup of sugar

1/2 cup of dark brown sugar

3 eggs

2 cups of all-purpose flour

2 1/2 cups of white whole-wheat flour

1 tablespoon of baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons of salt

2 teaspoons of pumpkin spice

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line baking or cookie sheets with parchment paper or coat them with non-stick cooking spray. In a large bowl, whisk together well the oil, pumpkin puree, vanilla, butter flavoring, sugars, and eggs. Mix together the flours, baking powder, salt, and pumpkin spice and add them to the batter, stirring in the dry ingredients until no white streaks remain. The batter will be fairly wet. Drop rounds of batter--about 3 tablespoons worth, each--onto the prepared baking sheets and flatten out the batter to form 2 1/2-3-inch rounds. Don't try to squeeze more than 9 cookies on each baking sheet, as the batter will puff and spread. Bake the cookies for about 10 minutes or until puffed and just set. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for a few minutes before removing them to cool completely. Spread the cookies "as is" or spread the caramel topping/icing on the cookies with the back of a spoon, letting the topping set for at least 20 minutes before serving the cookies.

Caramel Topping/Icing

1 cup of dark brown sugar

2 tablespoons of butter

1 cup of confectioners' sugar

1-2 tablespoons of milk

1/4 cup of coconut (optional, but good)

In a microwave-safe bowl, combine the brown sugar and butter and microwave them for 1-2 minutes, stirring them every 30 seconds, until the mixture melts together and bubbles. Stir in the confectioners' sugar and add the milk, a teaspoon at a time, until the topping reaches a spreading consistency. Stir in the coconut, if you'd like. Spoon a little of the topping on each of the cookies, and use the back of the spoon to spread the topping out on the cookies. Let the cookies sit for about 20 minutes to let the topping/icing set.

No Latte Healthier Pumpkin-Spice Cookies

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