This past weekend, I planned a much-needed mini vacation to visit my parents. Because of the ceaseless storm clouds and rain, we spent most of the time curled up in blankets on the couch and easy chairs, but around 2 pm on Sunday, my mom and I both started craving brunch food. And not just any brunch food… Our favorite brunch food, from a little restaurant named Hobee’s. With only a few locations in Northern California, they serve the best blueberry coffee cake you will ever taste in your entire life, and the tallest slices with the juiciest berries and thickest crumb topping come from the restaurant about 30 minutes from my parents’ house.
Mom and I threw on puffy winter jackets, dashed out to her car, and checked the traffic. Halfway to Hobee’s, we heard a short news segment about a huge freeway accident on the radio. Slightly panicked, we quickly rerouted and started careening around random surface streets, desperately trying to get there before they closed at 3 pm.
At 2:49, we pulled into the closest parking space and practically sprinted through the doors to the hostess stand. She still seated us and handed us menus, which we completely disregarded. We always request the same dishes!
The brunch gods must have been smiling at us that day—our favorite waiter turned out to be the last one on duty and strolled over to take our order. A strong middle-aged Filipino man, he took pity on me and my post-wisdom-teeth-extraction chipmunk cheeks on our first visit to that location and handed me a plate with two tall slices of coffee cake instead of just the one I asked for. (And he didn’t charge us a single penny more!) Honestly, half the reason we drive so far is just to see him. If seated at a different waiter’s table, we always wave at him from across the room, and he usually slips by a little later to say hi.
When he greeted us on Sunday, he revealed, “I had just been thinking about you two 3 days ago! I was wondering where that mother-daughter duo was… You haven’t been here for a while!”
We apologized, explaining that I hadn’t visited home for a few weeks, and he smiled. After memorizing our order and disappearing into the kitchen, he quickly returned with our hot plates of healthy huevos rancheros (Mom’s) and steamed veggies, chunky potatoes and scrambled egg whites (mine).
After allowing us a few minutes to stuff our faces, he returned with a box for my leftover coffee cake, and we started to chat. Because we normally arrive a little earlier in the day when countless customers fill the restaurant, we rarely spend more than 30 seconds catching up before he flits to another table to refill water glasses. But as the last two patrons on Sunday, we conversed with him for 5-10 minutes while Mom drained her tea mug, learning a little bit about his life, his son, and his original home in the Philippines.
He accompanied us when we walked up to the register to pay, and he introduced us to the manager as “his favorite customers.” Practically speechless, we tried to gracefully say something as sweet about him, but how exactly do you explain that a person brightens your day just by being in the room without sounding overly sappy and romantic?
Regardless, Mom and I walked out with happy tummies and big smiles across our faces. That waiter always makes us feel like family with his kind, cheerful demeanor!
Just like our favorite waiter, these Apricot Oatmeal Cookies are sweet, comforting, and guaranteed to brighten your day! Full of the familiar taste of cozy cinnamon and warm honey, each bite hides bright tidbits of tangy dried apricot, surrounded by homey oats that tie all of the flavors together. Made with NO butter, refined flour or refined sugar, these oatmeal cookies still stay soft and chewy for an entire week—if they last that long in your house!
A few months ago, I created these blueberry oatmeal cookies, and they quickly became the most popular recipe on my blog. Many of you have written how you baked and fell in love with them, so I thought you’d enjoy a new little twist!
The easy base begins with whole wheat flour and instant oats. It is crucial to measure both of these dry ingredients correctly! When measuring each, lightly spoon it into the measuring cup and level with a knife. (For a refresher, check out my baking basics. The link opens in a new tab, so you won’t lose your spot here!)
Yes, you MUST measure the oats this way too. If you scoop the oats from their container using the measuring cup, you end up with 1.5 times as many oats as you need. Extra oats will soak up the moisture in the dough and leave your cookies dry and crumbly, instead of the incredibly soft and chewy texture we want. So pretty, pretty please—measure your oats correctly!!
To keep these healthy cookies extra moist and chewy, I added in melted coconut oil. Although the raw dough may smell faintly of coconut, I promise you CANNOT taste it after baking the cookies! If you don’t own coconut oil, substitute melted butter instead.
It’s very important to use a room temperature egg in this cookie dough. With a fairly low melting temperature, coconut oil will quickly re-solidify into lots of tiny blobs if mixed with a chilled egg. (The same thing happens with melted butter too.) To avoid that situation, use my two easy tricks: (a) melt the coconut oil (or butter) first, before measuring out the dry ingredients, and (b) place the egg in a bowl of warm water (about 60-70°F) immediately after. By the time you measure and whisk together the dry ingredients, both the coconut oil and egg will be around room temperature and ready to use!
Sweet and tangy dried apricots really liven up these low fat cookies! Try to dice them fairly small—about the size of miniature chocolate chips—to ensure that every bite contains a tidbit of fruit. Since many readers reported delicious results using fresh and frozen blueberries in the original cookies, I’m sure fresh or frozen apricots would work here too. Just remember to dice them before mixing into the dough!
Because the cookie dough is initially fairly tacky, you must refrigerate it. Chilling is mandatory. This allows the oats to soak up some of the moisture. However, the amount of time you chill the dough greatly affects the appearance of the cookies. See the photo of my blueberry oatmeal cookies above? I chilled the dough for the left cookies for 2 hours, whereas for the ones on the right, I only left the dough in the fridge for 30 minutes.
They still taste the same; it just depends on your personal preference! (Note: For the apricot oatmeal cookies in all of these photographs, I only chilled the dough for 30 minutes.)
Because this recipe requires honey instead of white or brown sugar, the cookies bake at a lower temperature for slightly longer—325°F for 13-15 minutes. Do NOT overbake them! They will look and feel underdone when you pull them out of the oven, but you’ll leave them on the warm baking sheet for at least 15 minutes, which continues to cook the centers a little more without turning the outsides crisp and crunchy.
Yes, now you know… That’s my top-secret trick to creating incredibly soft and chewy cookies: slightly underbake them and leave them on the warm baking sheet longer. (These ones stayed soft for a one whole week!)
Bright fruit, warm cinnamon, and earthy oats fill every bite of these Apricot Oatmeal Cookies. Just like your favorite family recipe, these taste homey and familiar: extra soft, incredibly chewy, and perfectly sweet. As clean-eating cookies, these contain NO butter, refined flour or refined sugar, but they still taste like real cookies—not healthy at all!
I saved a few to share with my parents during my weekend visit. Despite trying to reduce their consumption of sweets and desserts, they polished off 3 between the two of them as soon as I showed them the bag! When I reported that I didn’t bring any more, they both looked rather sad and dejected.
Trust me—they’re that good.
So pour a glass of milk and treat yourself to your own!