Back-to-school season (along with allll the school lunches I’ve been packing, OMG) has got me feeling all kinds of nostalgia for the school lunch classics of my youth. Some of them would probably not be pleasing to my palate now (Lunchables, eww) but there are a couple that I think would stand the test of time.
Remember oatmeal cream pies? My mom would pack them in my lunch maybe once a week, and I can still taste the excitement of opening my lunch box to find one there. The frosting sandwiched between two cinnamon-y cookies was a flavor combo straight from heaven.
Well my friends, I’m happy to report that since I’m no longer into buying heavily processed packaged goods, I’ve done the work and created the ultimate healthier yet just as delish homemade oatmeal cream pie that’s perfect for school lunches, orrr… any other time of day or night. Scroll on for the deets.
This recipe actually started out with the intention to simply make a delicious oatmeal cookie that was packed with lots of nutritious things so I didn’t feel bad about my kids eating them as an after-school snack. We’re talking nuts, seeds, dried fruit, peanut butter, banana, lots of whole oats and not a lot of sugar. Plus I made them gluten-free so their GF friends could indulge, too.
The end result is so delicious, you could definitely stop with the cookie and be such a happy camper. Of course, the day we shot these for the site, Phoebe came to work with me and we got the idea to sandwich frosting between the layers. Let’s just say that it didn’t exactly up the health factor (there’s nothing virtuous about this frosting recipe), but it did increase the fun factor by several points.
A few thoughts on the final product: the entire cookie is really big, as in, even Phoebe couldn’t finish a whole one after school. You’ve got a few options here:
- Make the actual oatmeal cookies a lot smaller so you get a puffy yummy couple bites in each one.
- Make them open faced! This ended up being our favorite solution — after frosting one side, we stuck them in the fridge to let the frosting harden and it was really good.
- Go halvsies or go for a full, honestly if you want to eat one for lunch I’m not gonna judge.
And y’all know I’m all about the make-ahead cookie. If you want to freeze the unbaked cookie dough so you’ve always got fresh-from-the-oven oatmeal cookies on hand, just roll the dough into balls and place on a plate in the freezer for a couple hours until it’s hardened (that way, the dough won’t freeze together.) Pop the balls into a ziploc freezer baggie and keep them in the fridge for up to 2 months. You can bake them straight from the freezer.
Scroll on for the recipe, and l’d love to hear in the comments about your favorite nostalgic school lunch snack!
for the cookies:
- ½ cup melted butter
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 mashed banana
- 3 tablespoons peanut butter
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1 cup gluten-free flour (I like this one)
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- 1½ cup whole rolled oats
- 1/2 cup cranberries
- 1/4 cup toasted pecans
- 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
- zest of 1 orange + 1 tablespoon orange juice
for the cinnamon buttercream:
- 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, softened
- 1 3/4 cups powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon half and half
make the cookies:
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
In the bowl of a standing mixer, combine melted butter, sugar, egg, banana, peanut butter and vanilla. Beat on medium-high until well-combined.
- With the mixer off, add flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon, and whisk the dry ingredients together with a fork a little before turning the mixer back on lowest setting. Beat just until the dry ingredients are incorporated.
- Add oats, cranberries, pecans, seeds, zest, and juice, and beat on lowest setting until combined. Pop the dough in the fridge for 30 minutes before baking.
- Scoop out the dough into balls (about 1 tablespoon each), roll them with your hands then slightly flatten them on the baking sheet.
- Bake 5 minutes, then remove from oven and use a spatula to flatten the tops again middway through baking. Return to oven and cook 5 - 7 more minutes, until turning golden. Let cool on the pan for 2 - 3 minutes, then finish cooling on wire racks.
make the cinnamon buttercream filling:
- Wash and dry your mixer bowl, then beat butter on medium-high with the paddle attachment for about 5 minutes. Yes, it's a long time, but it's what makes the buttercream light and fluffy.
- Turn the mixer down to low and gradually add in the powdered sugar. Continue mixing on low speed until the powdered sugar is completely incorporated. Add in vanilla, cinnamon, and half-and-half, and mix until combined.
- Turn mixer back up to medium-high speed and beat the mixture for an additional 3-5 minutes. If needed, add in a little more half-and-half OR powdered sugar 1 teaspoon at a time if the buttercream is to dry or too . wet.
- When the cookies are completely cool, use a knife to spread the cream filling on the flat side of half of the cookies and put the remaining cookies on top. Or, do as we did and enjoy them open faced!
*I like these cookies best when they're kept in the fridge so the buttercream hardens between the layers. They also freeze beautifully! Just let them thaw in the fridge overnight, or pop into a lunch box and it'll be thawed by lunchtime.