PCA 2020

Smart Cookies

There is no season that so revolves around food as Christmas, a tradition largely responsible for the number of resolutions to lose weight
on January 1.

Cookies have been as essential a part of the holidays as Christmas cards, full stockings and chestnuts roasting on an open fire (or at least the idea of them). Nothing else accompanies hot cocoa, eases holiday stresses or makes as appealing a gift for teachers, neighbors and mailmen as homemade cookies. Besides, what other snack would be sufficient for Santa? (Anyone who leaves a Nutri-Grain bar with his milk risks a stockingful of coal, and probably deserves it.)

There are, of course, colored-sugar-encrusted and sawdust-like cookies stamped out into festive shapes available at every supermarket. Do not buy them. By doing so, you are missing the point – the time spent with your kids, the messy kitchen, the warm aroma that fills your house, the cookies eaten warm, straight from the pan upon coming in from the cold, and the pride your kids will feel by packaging up and giving out boxes of misshapen cookies cannot be purchased at a grocery store.

Fortunately, all the holiday classics can be made with less fat and fewer calories, without sacrificing taste or texture. There is no reason for a cookie recipe, besides shortbread, to contain a pound of butter. There is no reason your belly should jiggle like a bowl full of jelly, or that guilt should interfere with one of the season’s purest and most innocent pleasures. After many years of experimentation in the kitchen, I learned to make all my favorite cookies, squares, brownies and biscotti with less fat. Here are some of the recipes I’m passing down to my son, niece and nephews.

 

Molasses Crinkles

 

Molasses CrinklesIt’s funny how when you ask someone what their favorite cookie is, the answer is generally chocolate chip or peanut butter, yet every time I pull out a batch of these everyone says it’s their favorite kind. Make sure you don’t overbake them; they need to stay chewy.

 

2 Tbsp. butter or non-hydrogenated margarine, softened

2 Tbsp. canola oil

1/3 cup dark molasses

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 large egg

2 tsp. vanilla

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp. baking soda

1 Tbsp. cinnamon

1 1/2 tsp. ground ginger

1/2 tsp. ground allspice

1/4 tsp. salt

extra sugar, for rolling

 

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl, combine the oil, butter, molasses, brown sugar, egg and vanilla. Stir until well blended and smooth.

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, allspice and salt; add to the molasses mixture and stir by hand just until you have a soft dough.

Roll dough into 1”–1 1/2” balls and roll the balls in sugar to coat. Place about 2” apart on a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with nonstick spray.

Bake for 12–14 minutes, until just set around the edges. Transfer to a wire rack to cool or serve warm. Store extras in an airtight container or freeze.

Makes 20 cookies.

Per Cookie: 134 calories, 2.9 g fat (0.9 g saturated fat, 1.2 g monounsaturated fat, 0.5 g polyunsaturated fat), 25.5 g carbohydrates, 14 mg cholesterol, 1.6 g protein, 0.5 g fiber. 19% calories from fat. 

 

Chocolate Gingerbread

 

Chocolate and gingerbread go together so well I wonder why it isn’t more common. The addition of cocoa makes gingerbread richer, deeper and more enticing without adding any fat. This is a perfect recipe for any type of cut-out cookie. If you want to hang them as decorations, poke a hole near the top with a straw before baking, and loop a thin piece of ribbon through after they cool.

 

1 1/4 cups flour

1/3 cup cocoa

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground ginger

1/4 tsp. allspice

1/4 tsp. salt

pinch ground cloves

1/4 cup butter or non-hydrogenated margarine, softened

1/2 cup sugar

1 large egg

1/4 cup molasses

1 tsp. vanilla

 

In a medium bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, salt and cloves; set aside.

 

In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until creamy; add the egg white, molasses and vanilla and beat until smooth. Add the flour mixture and stir by hand just until you have soft dough. Shape the dough into a disc, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for an hour or until well chilled.

 

When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F. Roll the dough out between two sheets of waxed paper or on a surface very lightly dusted with a combination of flour and sugar until it’s 1/8”–1/4” thick. Cut out cookies using your choice of cookie cutters or a glass rim. Re-roll the scraps once to get as many cookies as possible.

Place the cookies an inch apart on a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with nonstick spray. Bake for 10–12 minutes, until pale golden around the edges. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Makes 3 dozen 2”-3” cookies.

Per Cookie: 46 calories, 1.4 g fat (0.8 g saturated fat, 0.4 g monounsaturated fat, 0.1 g polyunsaturated fat), 8 g carbohydrates, 3.5 mg cholesterol, 0.7 g protein, 0.5 g fiber. 26% calories from fat. 

Chocolate Gingerbread Icebox Cookies: Shape the dough into a 12” long log, wrap in waxed paper or plastic wrap and freeze for up to 3 months. Slice log into 1/4” slices and bake as directed.

 

Fruitcake Drops

 

No ambition to bake fruitcakes? It’s much faster and easier to stir together these bite-size versions, which give the impression of fruitcake without the stigma of a dessert that could potentially be used as a doorstop. And there are plenty of not-too-spillable things for the kids to measure out into the bowl.

 

1 cup mixed diced candied citron

1 cup dark raisins

1 cup golden raisins

1/2 cup chopped dried or candied cherries or cranberries

1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

grated zest of an orange or lemon (optional)

1/2 cup orange juice or brandy

1/4 cup water or orange juice

2/3 cup flour

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. ground ginger

1/4 tsp. allspice

1/4 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

2 Tbsp. butter or non-hydrogenated margarine, softened

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

2 large egg whites

2 Tbsp. corn syrup

 

In a large bowl, combine citron, raisins, golden raisins, cherries, nuts, zest, orange juice or brandy and water. Cover and let stand for several hours or overnight. Stir the mixture a few times as it sits.

 

In a small bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, baking powder and salt; set aside.

 

In a large bowl, beat butter and brown sugar until well blended. Beat in egg whites and corn syrup until smooth.

 

Add the fruit mixture and flour mixture to the sugar mixture and stir just until combined. Cover and refrigerate for 1 1/2–2 hours.

 

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F. Drop round spoonfuls of dough 1”–2” apart on a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with nonstick spray. Bake for 20–22 minutes, until tops are just firm to the touch and no longer appear wet. Let cool on the sheet for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. If you like, sprinkle the cooled cookies with icing sugar.

 

Makes 2 dozen cookies.  Per Cookie: 119 calories, 2.1 g fat (0.7 g saturated fat, 0.5 g monounsaturated fat, 0.7 g polyunsaturated fat), 25 g carbohydrates, 2.6 mg cholesterol, 1.6 g protein, 1.4 g fiber. 15% calories from fat.

 

Cranberry, Orange and White Chocolate Chunk Cookies

 

Cran, OrangeThe creamy sweetness of white chocolate offset by the tartness of orange and cranberry makes these one of my favorite cookies, during the holidays or not.

 

1/4 cup butter or non-hydrogenated margarine, softened

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
grated zest of 1 orange
1 large egg
3 Tbsp. orange juice or thawed orange juice concentrate
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup fresh or frozen (unthawed) cranberries, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup white chocolate chunks or chips

 

Preheat oven to 350° F.

 

In a large bowl, beat the butter, sugar, brown sugar and orange zest until well blended – the mixture will look like wet sand. Add the egg, orange juice and vanilla and beat until smooth.

 

In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add to the sugar mixture and stir by hand until almost combined; add the cranberries and white chocolate and stir just until blended.

 

Drop spoonfuls of dough about 1” apart on a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with nonstick spray. Bake for 12-14 minutes, until barely golden and set around the edges but still soft in the middle. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

 

Makes 1 1/2 dozen cookies.

Per cookie: 138 calories, 4.4 g total fat (2.5 g saturated fat, 1.3 g monounsaturated fat, 0.2  g polyunsaturated fat), 23.4 g carbohydrate, 20 mg cholesterol, 1.7 g protein, 0.6 g fiber. 28% calories from fat.  

 

Julie is a best-selling cookbook author, food writer, cooking instructor and the food and nutrition columnist on the Calgary Eyeopener on CBC Radio. She lives in Calgary with her husband and her son, Wilem. Watch for her cooking show, It’s Just Food, with co-host Ned Bell on Access TV and CLT stations across Canada. For recipes and daily ramblings visit her blog at dinnerwithjulie.com.

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