The holiday season is a tempting time to give up on healthy eating. All those roasts, turkeys with gravy and countless sides, buffets and cocktails. And, of course, the cookies.
But holiday cookies don't have to be the enemy. More so than most other desserts, they are the perfect portion-controlled sweets that — when enjoyed in moderation — can be a better option than a big slice of pie or cake.
When baking holiday cookies, there are several strategies for making healthier treats.
Most cookies not only are high in total fat content, they also are high in unhealthy saturated fats (usually from the butter and shortening). By replacing some of these solid fats with canola oil or nut oils, such as almond and walnut, you can reduce saturated fat and increase healthier monounsaturated fats.
Another technique for reducing fat is to cut some or all of the yolks out of recipes that call for eggs. Most recipes can stand having half the egg yolks removed. Replace every two yolks with one white. Fat-free egg substitutes also can be used.
To add fiber and nutrients, consider replacing some, or all, of the white flour with whole-wheat flour. In most cases up to half of the all-purpose flour can be replaced with whole wheat without significant changes to flavor and texture.
Cookies also can be made more wholesome by adding healthy ingredients such as nuts and dried fruits.
This recipe for intensely chocolatey low-fat Lava Rock cookies from Eating Well magazine uses only egg whites and no added oil. The recipe does call for two specialty ingredients: vanilla paste and cocoa nibs.
Vanilla paste is equivalent to one whole vanilla bean and can be found in specialty baking shops. If you like, you can use vanilla extract instead. Cocoa nibs are bits of roasted and hulled cocoa beans. They can be found at larger grocers and gourmet shops.
The pecans in the cookies are toasted, giving them an extra rich and nutty flavor. Toast pecans in a small, dry skillet over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until fragrant and lightly browned, about 2 to 4 minutes.