Baked Granola “Haystack” Cookies

[A plate of detox-friendly cookies! In the background, the ailing azalea plant my cousin gave me. Any advice on how to keep it alive?]

Are you a fan of granola?  For most of us, the mix of (usually) oats, nuts, seeds and raisins or dates is very alluring.  I must admit, however, that I first ate granola in my 20s, and then only for a few weeks before eschewing it entirely until my 40s.  Why, you may ask?  Well, let me answer by telling you a story (because you know that I will, right?). 😉

As a child, I couldn’t really tolerate the taste of nuts. Which was weird, since pretty much everyone else in my family seemed to love them; my Uncle S , for one, consumed dry roasted peanuts almost incessantly (though I must admit I never counted peanuts as “nuts”; not because I was a child prodigy who instinctively understood that “legumes aren’t nuts”; no, it was just that I never associated the sweet, tan unguent that I slathered on toast or saltines–so far removed in appearance, taste and texture from their original form–with the dry pods that my uncle popped in his mouth all day).

My mother, too, loved nuts of all kinds. Every Christmas, between the shortbread cookies, the pecan bars, the sugar cookies, the double chocolate brownies and the coffee cakes, she baked a huge batch of what she called “Frozen Nut Cookies.”  What was considered “frozen” about them I have no idea, as the mixed dough was never placed anywhere near the freezer, nor were any of the ingredients previously chilled.   The recipe called for a pound (454 grams) of ground walnuts, an entire jar of maraschino cherries (including the syrupy, sugary “juice”), and lots–lots–of butter. Every year, I scarfed a few of the cookies, hoping they’d convert me into a nut-lover, but really the only part I enjoyed was the chopped maraschinos. (In retrospect, I realize that what I really enjoyed was actually the sugar in the chopped maraschinos).

Then, during my late teens and early 20s while living in a university residence, I finally began to eat nuts in certain foods and actually enjoy them.  That is, until what I now refer to as “The Granola Trauma,” an incident that’s gone down in the annals of Ricki lore. My room mate and I had acquired the habit of buying the large plastic bags of “No Name” granola to snack on (or eat as a meal) during the semester (when we weren’t inhaling birthday cake, that is).  One evening as we sat cross-legged on opposite sides of the army-style cot, each totally totally engrossed in studying for our next final and entirely oblivious as our spoons repeatedly dipped into the bag with the cheery yellow stripe and then directly into our mouths, the GT occurred.  Let me explain what happened by relating this common children’s riddle:

Q. What’s worse than finding a worm in your apple granola?

A:  Finding half a worm.

‘Nuff said.

As you can guess, I wasn’t too keen on eating granola for a while. . . like, for a couple of decades. The nuts were just collateral damage.

It wasn’t until my 30s and the advent of the ACD that I really began to appreciate almonds, pecans, hazelnuts, walnuts and the like again (of course, meeting the HH during those days also helped, since he’s one nut that everyone’s just gotta love. But you saw that coming, of course.).

By the time I created my first cookbook, Sweet Freedom, I was consuming (homemade) granola again and even had a favorite recipe to share on the blog.  I decided I wanted to include my own version of a granola cookie in the book, and came up with Seed Jumble Cookies.  The Seed Jumbles were always a hit with my friends and their children (whether or not they could eat nuts–the cookie is nut-free).  This recipe is a healthier, gluten-free version of those.

I actually created this recipe in anticipation of this week’s Sweet Victory detox program that begins on Saturday (and today is the last day to register at the early bird discount price!).  The program is designed to help participants eschew sugar from their lives and get a grip on those gnawing sugar cravings (a feeling about which I know all too well).  I’m also participating in the program, which was designed by holistic health coach Andrea Nakayama to provide crucial information about the nature of sugar addiction, brain chemistry, how to deal with cravings, and more. I wanted to be sure that everyone’s sweet tooth was satisfied with healthy, delicious desserts for the two weeks. Believe it or not, this is the kind of recipe you can eat while detoxing from sugar!

Although I’ve already removed refined sugars from my own diet, I’m going through the program to learn more about why my brain keeps asking for sugar anyway–and what to do about it.  But it’s really for anyone at any stage who wants to beat the sugar demon ).

These cookies combine coconut sugar with fresh pear purée and a bit of stevia to achieve a perfect level of sweetness and cookie-like texture.  The seeds and SunWarrior powder add enough protein and fiber to offset any rise in blood sugar and prevent a spike that will send you toward the sugar bowl.  I was able to eat two cookies and stop there (though the HH enjoyed these so much he actually ate 3, and told me, “These taste like real cookies”!).  In fact, they’re healthy enough that I would feel fine eating a couple for breakfast–just the way  I might eat a bowl of granola (just please, not the no-name kind).

I’m submitting this recipe to Diane’s Real Food Weekly  and Mis Pensamientos’ vegan Clean Eating event.

Last Year at this Time: Salad Days (3): Crazy Simple Raw Kale Salad (ACD Stage 1 and beyond)

Two Years Ago: Confetti Quinoa-Wild Rice Salad (ACD stage 1 and beyond)

Three Years Ago: Mrs. K’s Date Cake (not gluten free; ACD maintenance only)

© Ricki Heller

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  1. These look amazing. I have now added rice protein powder to my list of things to look for. And these would totally be for me. The monkey get his own! 🙂

  2. Haystack cookies? I’m thinking fall already! 😉 That could be a good thing with the current heat. I’ll sub coconut flour or almond flour for the protein powder though. These look awesome, Ricki, and super nutritious! 🙂


    • I think that’s what I liked best–they are actually full of stuff that is REALLY good for you! So not really like eating a cookie at all, right? 😉 One warning, though: I did try them with GF flour (my AP mix and also coconut) and they didn’t hold together the same way. You could try using all coconut sugar (add more instead of the stevia) and see if that helps. 🙂

  3. Those look sooo good! Definitely will be giving this recipe a try. 🙂

  4. Eeek! I actually have everything to make these, and they sound fantastic, and yay! Except, of course, that the most likely happening of my afternoon today is not baking but collapsing in a heap when I get home, because something is wrong with our security system and there’s been an unceasing high pitched noise in my office for the past three hours. Brain. Die.

  5. That there is a cyclamen! they do not like heat and can go dormant during summer. I think it looks pretty nice!

    • Thanks for the tip, Sue! The tag said azalea–I wonder if there are different names for it? I think I needed the “no heat” tip, though–I’ve been putting it near the window! Will move it closer to the cooler part of the house. Thanks! 🙂

  6. at last a “health-cookie” that really has health giving properties! I’ve never heard of coconut sugar though..will give it a go. We love your site, thank you.

    • Thanks so much, and thanks for commenting! Coconut sugar is a fairly new, low-glycemic sweetener that looks like a very granular light brown sugar. If you can find it, it’s well worth trying (though expensive). If you’re in the States, you can get it from amazon.

  7. a worm in your granola? ew. ewewew! these look great, i’ll definitely be trying these 🙂 you know, sometime, when i get to every recipe on my to-make list…

    • Yes, that’s exactly what it was. . . and dare I say, it wasn’t the only one?? Still shudder when I think of it–so I won’t think of it! Glad you like the recipe, though. 😉

  8. Ewwwwww!!!! Now I don’t want to eat granola. Seriously, you drew me in with the title of this post, but I have almost (almost, it takes quite a lot you know) lost my appetite! But, since it’s one of your recipes Ricki, it will still inspire. I’ve really been trying to figure out something new with granola, and I think this might be it!

    • EWWW indeed!! Well, if you’re looking for a new granola recipe, this one is great. For me, the protein powder is what really makes it–the added protein really helps prevent sugar cravings from the cookies as it balances out the blood sugar. 🙂

  9. thanks for getting back Ricki! I love finding new ingredients. Easy to get when we started our page in Vancouver with an amazing Wholefoods just 5 minutes away, but not so easy these days back in London. There is a W’foods about an hour away though; I will trek over there and take a look…

  10. I know I’d love these – no question because I love nuts. Loved walnuts when I was little and have now got back into them in a big way – but nuts are seen as dangerous for kids whole so I guess we get into nut butters and foods made with ground nuts long before we eat them whole so it stands to reason that kids don’t like them so much. Though I was surprised to hear you hadn’t always loved them. You do have a way with nuts!

    • Oddly, there are actually no nuts in this recipe! I do add some almond butter, though–but it can be repaced w/ sunflower or other seed butter. Feel free to exchange some of the seeds for chopped nuts, though! 🙂

  11. I never thought I would see a cookie that looked both yummy and good for you too.
    Thanks for the tip about the protein powder, I was thinking about trying a substitute but you make a good point about it reducing the sugar cravings.
    I’ve been trying to ease back on the sugar these days, so I think a batch of these granola cookies just might be in order…and soon


  12. these look absolutely nutritious and delightful to snack on! love the addition of sunwarrior protein – that’s my favorite protein powder of choice. 😀 thanks for submitting the recipe to my clean eating event. have a wonderful weekend ricki 🙂

  13. Yum Shirley! I might have to give these a try. I really need to get my kids to eat more nuts and seeds. I love the ingredients in these. I can’t even talk about the worm thing, or I might never eat granola AGAIN!

  14. Sorry, I just realized I said Shirley. It’s because I scanned through the comments and saw hers! She’s always so quick 🙂 RICKI RICKI RICKI!

  15. Oh my – that GT sounds horrible! Glad you’re back on the granola bandwagon though. These look very more-ish. Yum.

  16. Yikes I can understand why you didn’t eat granola for a long time! I’m having trouble eating pistachios after a similarly troubling incident, which is sad as pistachios are delicious! I Love the sound of these cookies.

  17. michael phelan says

    here i am again popping up on your site at another recipe. 🙂 i was wondering – could i substitute an apple for the pear?
    and i’m assuming i could use all almond butter or sunflower seed butter instead of the tahini – almond butter combo? (i don’t do too well with tahini)

    • Hi Michael, yes, I think you could use applesauce instead of pear puree (though it won’t be quite as sweet). And I’m sure all almond butter should work, though it will change the flavor a bit, of course. If you do try the changes, come back and let us all know how they turned out! 🙂

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