Oats make desserts that are flavorful and good for you

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Portia Little

Budget Kitchen by Portia Little

It’s February — a time to treat your sweetheart and also yourself – to some foods that are heart healthy.

One great way to accomplish that is by adding oats. The demand for those dietary heroes has increased in the past 15 to 20 years as repeated scientific studies have found that the soluble fiber in oats lowers low-density lipoprotein (LDL or the “bad” cholesterol). Oats have also been shown to enhance the response of the human immune system to bacterial infection.

Oats taste great, too. Their comforting, nutty, slightly sweet flavor is good as a cereal, and they are neutral enough to pair well with savory and sweet.

Most of us have enjoyed classic oatmeal cookies. But for a change, why not try an oatmeal cookie that’s made without flour — very chewy and perfect for those trying to avoid wheat.

Of course, for a Valentine’s Day goodie, why not add some chocolate to celebrate the moment. Here’s to good health.

Nuts for Oats Cookies

2 cups quick-cooking oats

¾ cup coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts

1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

¾ cup packed brown sugar

¼ cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease two baking sheets, or line with parchment paper. Combine oats, nuts, cinnamon, baking powder and salt. Pulse in food processor until nuts are finely chopped. Beat butter and sugars until smooth. Beat in eggs. Stir in vinegar, vanilla, and oat mixture. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto baking sheets. Bake about 14 minutes until edges are barely browned. Remove from oven; cool in pans about five minutes; transfer to wire rack. Makes about 3 ½ dozen cookies.

Oatmeal Scones

1 cup flour

3 tablespoons packed brown sugar

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/3 cup butter

1 cup quick-cooking oats

½ cup raisins or mini-chocolate chips

2 egg whites

¼ cup milk

Additional milk for brushing

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In large bowl, mix together flour, brown sugar, baking powder and cinnamon. Cut in butter until crumbly. Stir in oats and raisins or chocolate chips. In small bowl, combine egg whites and ¼ cup milk. Add to flour mixture; stir just until combined.

Turn dough onto lightly floured surface. Roll or pat into 7-inch circle. Cut into 12 wedges. Transfer dough to cooking-sprayed baking sheet. Brush tops with milk. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until scones are golden. Makes 12 scones.

Raspberry Oatmeal Treats

1 cup flour

3/4 cup quick-cooking oats

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup margarine, softened

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 to 3/4 cup raspberry preserves

1/3 cup sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In bowl, combine flour, oats and sugar. Cut in margarine until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. You can use a stand mixer to do that. Stir in extract. Reserve one cup crumb mixture; press remaining crumbs into a greased or cooking-spray coated 8- or 9-inch square pan. Spread preserves to about 1/2 inch from edges. Combine almonds with reserved crumbs; sprinkle over preserves; press down gently. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown on edges. Cool and cut into bars. Makes 9-12 servings. Serve with ice cream, if desired.

Note: Try other preserves such as peach, cherry or strawberry and flavor with vanilla or other extract.

No-Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

¼ cup baking cocoa

½ cup butter

½ cup milk

2 cups sugar

½ cup peanut butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 cups quick-cooking oats

In saucepan, combine cocoa, butter, milk and sugar; bring to a boil. Boil for 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat; mix in peanut butter and vanilla. In large bowl, combine oats and chocolate mixture. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto cookie sheets that have been lined with wax paper. Let cool before serving. Makes three to four dozen. Note: To vary, increase cocoa to ½ cup, eliminate peanut butter and add ½ cup chopped nuts.

Baked OatmealVegBakedOatmeal

2-1/4 cups quick-cooking oats, or 2-3/4 cups old-fashioned oats, uncooked

2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar

3/4 cup raisins or dried cranberries

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

3-1/3 cups skim milk

4 egg whites, lightly beaten with fork

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat 8- or 9-inch glass baking dish with cooking spray. In large bowl, combine oats, sugar, raisins, walnuts, cinnamon and salt. Mix well. In medium bowl, combine milk, egg whites, oil and vanilla; mix until well-blended. Pour into baking dish. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until center is set and firm. Cool slightly. Serve topped with milk or yogurt and fruit, if desired. Makes nine servings. Store covered in fridge. Can also be frozen in individual servings and heated in microwave.

By Portia Little, the author of six cookbooks. You can contact her at panntree@msn.com.

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