Always economical and nutritious, lentils are also surprisingly versatile. When I recently was able to get some of the basic brown lentils for 59 cents a pound at Costco (in a Costco-size 10 pound bag!), I knew that this was the time to really test their versatility.
I will be posting several recipes in the next few weeks for things as varied as veggie burgers, enchiladas and curried lentils with vegetables. Today, however, I'll start with the end of the meal, sweets, cookies to be specific.
When I try out these kinds of "what can I do with this ingredient" recipes, I start with an internet search to be sure that the idea I have isn't completely crazy or inedible. Sometimes, there are few if any precedents for what I might have thought of, and that usually scares me off from continuing.
With the "lentil cookies" search I started, however, I discovered dozens of sites with recipes. As I started looking at some of these, the same pattern emerged as for many similar searches in the past: Blog after blog includes a recipe that is identical with others, without any attribution and all too often without any effort to change even a single word in the instructions.
(As a side note here, one of the things that I aim to do with Frugal, Fast, and Fun is to be sure that anything I post here has some unique adjustment to ingredients and/or method so that I can claim it as an original OR, if I find something really, really worth posting as is, with only a few comments added, I will be sure to provide the source and link. If you ever find that I have violated my own "rules," never be afraid to call me out on this. Thank you.)
There is one bright side to this repetition of recipes: They are no doubt good enough to make lots of people happy.
That seems to be the case with the key lentil recipe out there, a version with oatmeal and coconut key ingredients. This seemed like a good start but, imagining what the recipe might yield, I foresaw two potential problems I wanted to overcome. First, they seemed a little bland. Yes, most of them used almond flavoring along with the vanilla, but overall, unless you really like coconut, I thought they might be a little too "tame" for many.
My second concern revolved around texture. Though the recipes all emphasized the need to be sure the lentils were very well cooked (or over-cooked), I still wondered if there might be a problem for some super-cautious people (read, fussy toddlers) who might balk at finding an almost whole lentil in their cookie.
Where to start to avoid these possible issues? Where else when making cookies? Chocolate chips! In particular, mini chocolate chips, for a couple of reasons. First, I generally prefer them because they mix in better, so almost every bite has a little bit of chocolate in it.
The second reason would directly address that texture problem for those "suspicious" eaters. The small chips are just about the same size as any lentil that might not get mashed thoroughly, helping disguise this high protein, high fiber addition to the cookies.
Then one more flavor enhancer: upping the cinnamon content while keeping in both vanilla and almond extracts. I also made a texture change by substituting walnuts for coconut, but these would probably be good with a half and half mixture of both.
The finished product turned out to be more cake-like than crispy or chewy, but that didn't deter any of my taste-testers from declaring these perfect for a cookies and milk snack. About the only reaction I got when I divulged the presence of lentils was a, "great, now that I know they are healthy, I can have another one or two."
Well, maybe not exactly health food here, but there is a lot of goodness mixed in with the great taste, making them a snack that can be indulged in more often than some of the alternatives you might be craving.
Lentil Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 c cooked lentils, mashed (see NOTE)
1 c butter, softened
1/2 c oil
2 c brown sugar
1 t vanilla
1 t almond extract
4 1/2 c flour (up to half can be whole wheat flour if desired)
2 t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
2 t baking powder
2 1/2 to 3 c rolled oats--either "quick," but not instant, or old-fashioned
2 c semi-sweet chocolate chips--I prefer the mini size, but any will do
1 c coconut OR chopped walnuts
NOTE: This recipe used lentils cooked until very, very soft. If you have cooked the lentils to just the firm stage (for use in multiple recipes), you may want to combine about 1 3/4 c lentils with a half cup of water and cook again, until they are very soft. Set aside to cool before proceeding.
1. Combine the butter, oil, sugar, eggs, and flavorings. Beat until smooth and then stir in the mashed lentils.
2. Sift 2 cups of the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Stir into the lentil mixture and beat until evenly mixed.
3. Add the remaining flour and then the rolled oats. When all ingredients are evenly mixed, stir in the chocolate chips and coconut or nuts.
4. Drop the batter by tablespoons full on to a well-oiled cookie sheet. Flatten lightly with a spatula and bake at 375 degrees for 11 to 12 minutes, until well-browned.
Makes 5 1/2 to 6 dozen cookies. This recipe is easily halved too, but why not make the full batch and freeze some for later!
A few hints:
My kitchen was quite warm today so the batter was very soft and the cookies flattened out without needing to press them down. If your dough is colder, be sure to flatten them out or they may be rather thick and a little tough.
There is no need to use an ice cream scoop or cookie scoop to make these--that always seems just like one more dish to wash!
When making cookies that call for an oiled baking sheet: Usually you won't need to re-oil the pans; just scrape them clean if any cookie residue remains from the first batch. And don't ever feel the need to wash the pans between batches! Unnecessary work for sure.
Ways to make these even thriftier:
You could switch the proportions of oil and butter, i.e., a scant cup of oil and half a cup of butter.
The amount of chocolate chips and/or coconut can be reduced.
Make half the recipe and pat the dough evenly into a well-oiled "jelly roll pan"--about 11 X 15 inches. Bake at 350 degrees about 15 minutes, until the center springs back when you press lightly on it with your finger.