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Cookies with beans add fiber — and they're tasty, too

In my family I've always been the one who makes truly delicious chocolate chip cookies — moist, buttery cookies full of chocolate chunks. When my stepson moved into our household at age 11, I quickly realized a cookie aroma in the air would help me win his heart. And so it did.

Truth be told, I was into my fourth decade before sugar and saturated fat got my attention. As I became more nutritionally savvy and obtained new information, I overreacted for a while. I viewed cookies as a health hazard. My cookie-making nearly halted.

It took me nearly another decade to come to terms with this issue (one bite at a time).

Oh sure, I could have made smaller cookies or replaced the trans-fatty Crisco in those cookies with a mixture of butter and olive oil. I could have used an artificial sweetener like Splenda (the one you can bake with) or I might even have opted for baking gingersnaps instead (fewer calories).

But I wanted it all. I wanted to create a cookie that looked, smelled and tasted like "the ones mom used to make." I wanted to be able to say to my family, "Have a cookie, it's good for you." And I did.

Not only am I more often filling the house with a fresh-baked cookie aroma, I've regained my "best-in-show" credentials. In fact, as sometimes happens with me, I have gone a little over the top. I've developed a cookie recipe that's more than just "good for you;" it contains all the food groups (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, meat or meat alternatives, fats/oils) (www.mypyramid.gov).

Actually, I've not quite hit all the food groups — but I will if you have a glass of nonfat milk with your warm, just-out-of-the oven cookie.

But first, let me start out by telling you these cookies are made with beans. Don't be put off by that until you've tried one. When you put beans in a cookie recipe you add protein as well as reduce the need for as much fat.

Some bakers I know eliminate the fat entirely by adding only beans (and applesauce) but I've not gone quite that far. Beans are basic. Do you have them in your pantry? Maybe you should. Beans are near the top of any list about stocking a heart-healthy kitchen.

And cooking with beans assures fiber in your diet. Most of us get less than half the amount we need (28-30 grams of fiber a day is what's recommended — and we typically get about 9-11). Each of these cookies has almost 2 grams of fiber — and 2 grams of protein.

I didn't come up with this idea completely on my own. They're good — not quite the luscious golden domes I used to make, but "not bad," as my husband puts it (the ultimate complement). Other people make food treats of all kinds with beans (pureed with rosemary and minced garlic on toast or colorful bean varieties in pasta salad). There are lots of options, but for now, let's focus on what's in the oven.

Ah, yes, have a cookie. It's good for you.

Sharon Johnson is an associate professor in the College of Health and Human Sciences at Oregon State University and on the faculty of the OSU Extension Service. She can be reached at s.johnson@oregonstate.edu

1 cup whole wheat flour

11/2; cup quick-cooking rolled oats

1 cup well-cooked white beans (or use canned beans, drained)

¾ cup unsweetened applesauce

¾ cup brown sugar and Splenda mixture

1/4 cup shredded zucchini

2 eggs

1/2; cup butter (or 1/4 cup butter and 1/4 cup olive oil)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2; teaspoon salt

1/2; teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Puree beans and zucchini in food processor or mash well. Cream together the butter, applesauce, sugar and pureed beans/zucchini. Stir in vanilla and beaten eggs. Combine dry ingredients and stir into bean mixture. Mix in the chocolate chips. Drop by spoonfuls onto sprayed cookie sheets. Bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Enjoy.