Better by the Dozen

Bake up Holiday Cheer with Decadent, yet Healthy Cookies



Whether chewy or crunchy, eaten straight or dunked in milk, cookies are a perfect accompaniment to holiday parties and chilly nights gathered around the fireplace. This year, indulge family and friends with a batch of these tasty treats, updated by using unrefined flours, natural sugars, and nutrient-boosting ingredients, including dried fruit, heart-healthy nuts, vitamin-rich pumpkin, and antioxidant-laden organic dark chocolate. To cut unhealthy fats, these recipes also substitute unsweetened applesauce and egg whites for some of the butter. Such creative twists gladly transform cookies from a guilty indulgence to a healthier treat—true comfort food for a joyous season.

Gingerbread People

Makes 3 ½ dozen / Preparation tip: Currants make good eyes, noses and buttons; place on cookies before baking. Or, decorate with all-natural colored sprinkles before baking.

1 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
3 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground allspice
½ tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
½ cup brown sugar
5 Tblsp unsalted butter, softened
½ cup molasses
1 egg

Icing (optional)
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

¼ tsp lemon or vanilla extract

3-4 Tblsp water

1. In a medium bowl, combine flours, spices, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

2. In a separate bowl, combine sugar and butter; beat on medium speed for 2-3 minutes until thoroughly combined and fluffy. Add molasses and egg and blend. Add flour mixture to molasses mixture; beat on low until blended. Divide dough in half and wrap each half in plastic. Chill for 1-2 hours.

3. Preheat oven to 350°. On a floured board, roll dough into a ¼-inch-thick circle. Cut out cookies with a cutter. Place one inch apart on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Decorate with candies and currants, if desired. Bake for 7-8 minutes until firm. Let cool on baking sheet for 2 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

4. To make icing, combine powdered sugar and lemon or vanilla extract. Add 3 tablespoons water and stir. If necessary, add an additional tablespoon of water until a spreadable paste forms. Use a piping cloth (or zip-top plastic bag with one corner snipped) to decorate cooled cookies.

Chocolate & Peppermint Sandwiches

Makes 12 / Hint: The chocolate cookies also are delicious on their own. Preparation tip: Substitute mint chocolate chip or mocha frozen yogurt or ice cream, if preferred.

 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup natural cane sugar
4 Tblsp unsalted butter
2 Tblsp unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1 pint fat-free vanilla frozen yogurt
½ cup crushed all-natural peppermint candies, divided

1. In a medium bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and cinnamon. Set aside. In a large bowl, blend sugars and butter until fluffy. Add applesauce, vanilla extract and egg. Once thoroughly combined, blend in flour mixture. Transfer dough to one end of a large sheet of waxed paper. Fold paper over dough and wrap completely, rolling dough into a 12-inch log. Freeze for 1-2 hours.

2. Preheat oven to 350°. Coat a baking sheet using a cooking oil spray pump. Unwrap dough and slice crosswise into 24 cookies. Bake 12 at a time for 10-12 minutes or until firm to the touch. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool.

3. While cookies are cooling, remove frozen yogurt from freezer to soften. Stir in ¼ cup crushed peppermint candies. Place remaining ¼ cup crushed candies in a shallow dish. Spread 1-2 tablespoons of frozen yogurt on the flat side of one cookie. Place another cookie (flat side down) on top and gently push together. Roll edges lightly in crushed candies. Repeat with remaining cookies. Wrap sandwiches individually in plastic wrap and freeze until firm, 2-4 hours.

Cranberry-Ginger Biscotti

Makes 24 / Crispy biscotti, Italian for “twice-baked,” pair perfectly with English Breakfast or Earl Grey tea. Test kitchen tip: Don’t worry if they’re a little soft when they come out of the oven—they will harden as they cool. Store in airtight container.

1 tsp vanilla extract
2 whole eggs
1 egg white
2 Tblsp honey
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
¾ cup natural cane sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ cup chopped, crystallized ginger
½ cup  dried cranberries

1.  Preheat oven to 350°. Combine vanilla extract, whole eggs, egg white and honey in a medium bowl.

2. In a separate bowl, combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder and salt. Add flour mixture to egg mixture and blend thoroughly. Add ginger and cranberries; stir until well-blended and cranberries and ginger are distributed.

3. Divide dough in half. Shape each half into a 12-inch-long flattened log, approximately ½ inch thick. Place logs on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and cool for 10 minutes.

4. Reduce oven temperature to 325°. On a cutting board, slice each log diagonally into 12 slices, each ½ inch thick. Place pieces cut-side up, on baking sheet and bake for an additional 8 minutes; flip and cook on the other side for another 8 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Pumpkin-Walnut Bars

Makes 24 / Reminiscent of pumpkin pie, with a delicious ginger crust. Serve at room temperature with fresh whipped cream or vanilla frozen yogurt. Test kitchen tip: If these get too soft after storing, just pop them in the oven on a baking sheet for a few minutes.

1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs (about 10 whole crackers)
1 cup gingersnap cookie crumbs (about 12 cookies)
¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
15-oz. can pumpkin purée
12-oz. can evaporated skim milk
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cloves
¾ cup brown sugar
1 egg

Streusel Topping

1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup graham cracker crumbs
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
2 Tblsp cold butter, finely chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350°. In a medium bowl, combine 1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs, gingersnap crumbs, melted butter and maple syrup. Coat a 9x11-inch baking pan using a cooking oil spray pump. Place mixture into bottom of pan and press to form a crust. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, combine pumpkin purée, evaporated milk, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, brown sugar and egg. Whisk until thoroughly combined. Pour pumpkin mixture over crust and spread evenly. Bake 40 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, make the streusel topping by combining walnuts, 1/3 cup graham cracker crumbs, ¼ cup brown sugar, cinnamon and butter. Blend with a fork or pastry cutter until the mixture resembles coarse meal.Peanut butter kisses recipe

4. After pumpkin bars have baked, sprinkle with streusel and bake for 15-20 minutes more, until golden.

Peanut Butter Kisses

Makes 4 ½ dozen / Updates the classic peanut butter cookie with more whole grains and a delicious bite of dark chocolate in the center. Soft and excellent with milk.

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
½ cup oat bran
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
¼ cup pure maple syrup
2/3 cup natural peanut butter, smooth or chunky
6 Tblsp unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ cups brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 ½ doz large dark chocolate drops (such as Dagoba)

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly coat baking sheets using a cooking oil spray pump.

2. In a medium bowl, combine flours, oat bran, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a large bowl, combine maple syrup, peanut butter, butter and brown sugar. Mix on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla extract and beat until well-blended. Stir flour mixture into peanut butter mixture. Set aside for a few minutes to firm slightly.

3. Roll 1-inch balls between your palms. Place balls onto prepared baking sheets, about two inches apart. Bake 4 minutes. Remove baking sheets from oven and place one chocolate drop in the center of each cookie. Bake for an additional 5 minutes or until golden brown. Remove cookies from sheets and transfer to wire racks to cool.

Molasses-Walnut Cookies

Makes three dozen / A nice dessert or sweet breakfast treat, these cakelike cookies dunk well in a French roast or hickory coffee. Preparation tips: Don’t overstir the batter, or the cookies will become too dense. For a different glaze taste, substitute coffee or rum for the milk.

 ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp ground allspice
¾ cup natural cane sugar
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
6 Tblsp unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup pumpkin purée
4 Tblsp molasses
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup walnuts, chopped
1/3  cup crystallized ginger, chopped
1/3  cup unsweetened, shredded coconut

Molasses Walnut Cookies RecipeGlaze (optional)

1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
¼ cup pure maple syrup
½ Tblsp unsalted butter, softened
1-2 Tblsp nonfat milk
½ tsp  vanilla
¼ tsp ground cinnamon

1. Place a paper towel in a colander. Set applesauce on paper towels and top with a second paper towel. Let sit for five minutes, until liquid has drained. Scoop applesauce off paper toweling and set aside.

2. Preheat oven to 350°. In a medium bowl, combine flours, baking soda, salt and spices. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine sugars and butter. Blend together for 5 minutes. Add drained applesauce, pumpkin, molasses, egg and vanilla extract. Beat on low until thoroughly combined. Add flour mixture; mix until combined. Stir in walnuts, candied ginger and coconut.

3. Coat a baking sheet using a cooking oil spray pump. Measure dough 1 tablespoon at a time; with floured hands, roll it between your palms and set on baking sheet (12 cookies per batch). Reflour hands and flatten each cookie with your palm. If not adding glaze, sprinkle cookies with natural cane sugar instead. Bake for 16 minutes, until golden. Remove from sheet and cool on wire rack.

4. To make glaze: Blend powdered sugar, maple syrup, butter and milk until smooth. Add vanilla and cinnamon. Spread a small dollop on top of cooled cookies.

Bizcochitos

Makes about 40 / A lightened version of New Mexico’s official state cookie, the delicate bizcochito is found at nearly every holiday occasion in the Land of Enchantment.

 1 ½ cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp anise seed
1 tsp baking powder
¼  tsp salt
1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon, divided
5 Tblsp unsalted butter, softenedHealthy Bizcochitos Recipe
¾  cup granulated fructose or sugar, plus 1 Tblsp
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. In a medium bowl, combine flour, anise, baking powder, salt and 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon. In a second bowl, beat butter and ¾ cup sugar until light and fluffy. Blend in egg and vanilla. Once mixture is smooth, blend in flour mixture. Divide dough in half and roll each half into a ball. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and freeze for 1 hour, until firm.

2. Preheat oven to 350°. On a flour-coated cutting board and using a flour-coated rolling pin, roll dough into a ¼ inch-thick circle. Cut dough into 2-inch shapes (such as stars).

3. Combine remaining 1 tablespoon sugar and ½ teaspoon cinnamon in a small bowl. Sprinkle cookies with cinnamon-sugar mixture. Transfer to a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake for 10 minutes until golden.


 Melissa Williams is the editor of Healing Lifestyles & Spas magazine.

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