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Do you love holiday cookies, but become a Grinch once you notice the calorie count? Well brighten your spirits, because we talked with Jessica Espinoza from 20 Dishes to go over her favorite tricks for keeping the holidays healthy. These cookie hacks will help you stay on the thin side of the scale, and we're even offering up some alternatives for people with food allergies. Looks like the most wonderful time of year just got a bit more wonderful.
SubstitutionsTo start off, we wanted to offer up some of Jessica's favorite substitutions. This way, you'll be able to make the following recipes your own!
Espinoza says,"I most commonly use nut flours and coconut flour. A new favorite flour is cassava flour, which yields a consistency similar to wheat flour without having any gluten or grains, but the most common substitute for butter is ghee or coconut oil (though there's nothing wrong with grass-fed butter!)."
You can even check out her tastiest alternative recipe here.
Now let's check out the other thin treats:
Coconut No-Bake CookiesLet’s start with a new spin to a classic holiday cookie favorite (1). Because what’s better than kicking off your healthy holiday baking with, well, no baking at all?
3 cups unsweetened, shredded coconut
3/8 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup sweetener
2 tablespoon vanilla (alcohol free vanilla is recommended)
3/8 teaspoon salt (real salt is recommended)
1. Combine all the ingredients in your food processor or blender.
2. Mix the ingredients together slowly until they stick together like a thick paste.
3. Now, remove the mixture and place it on a cookie sheet. Begin cutting the mixture into smaller pieces and form them to your desired cookie shape.
4. Next, coat the individual cookies with a topping of your choice. This could be shredded coconut, cocoa powder, melted chocolate, crushed nuts or all of the above!
5. Finally, let the cookies sit at room temperature until they firm up and then dig in!
Double Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip CookiesOkay, stay calm. Take a deep breath. It's a frightening name for someone looking to reduce their caloric intake, but trust us, this is a healthy (2) cookie recipe replacement for many of your traditional holiday treats.
1 cup dates, packed and pitted (soaked in warm water for 10 minutes, then drained)
1 medium ripe banana (1/2 cup mashed)
2 tablespoon salted creamy peanut butter
1 cup almond meal (ground from raw almonds)
1 cup rolled oats (gluten free for GF eaters)
Just under a 1/4 cup peanut butter chips
Just under a 1/4 cup dairy free semisweet chocolate chips
1. First, you’ll want to put all of your dates into a food processor and pulse them into small bits.
2. Next, you should add the mashed banana and peanut butter to the dates, and mix it all until its completely combined.
3. Now add your almond meal and rolled oats, and pulse the mixture until it becomes loose, slightly sticky dough.
4. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the dough out of the food processor and into a mixing bowl. Add a few more tbsp. of almond meal and/or oats if your mixture feels more wet than sticky.
5. Next, throw in your chocolate and peanut butter chips to the mix. Let that sit in your refrigerator for 10 minutes while you preheat your oven to 350 degrees
6. Now it’s time to form the individual cookies. We recommend using 1 Tbsp amounts. Just simply scoop them out from the bowl and form into loose discs on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
7. Once the oven is heated, bake the cookies for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown and slightly firm.
8. After baking, let the cookies sit for a few minutes, then transfer them to a plate to cool.
Pecan SandiesHere’s a fun, light healthy holiday cookie: pecan sandies (3). They’re super simple to make and perfect for settling down with a warm cup of coffee after a hefty, holiday feast.
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup whole-wheat pastry flour
¾ cup finely chopped pecans
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
¼ cup almond butter
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar, plus more for dusting cookies
1 egg white
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Use a big bowl to whisk together your cinnamon, flours, crushed pecans and salt.
3. In a mixer, beat together your cream butters and sugar.
4. Once that’s mixed well, add in the egg white and continue beating until it becomes light and fluffy.
5. Add in the vanilla extract and continue beating until it’s blended with the mixture.
6. Now, set your mixer to a low speed, and carefully begin to add flour mixture until it turns doughy.
7. Scoop out 1 Tbsp size chunks of dough and form them into 3-inch balls on your parchment-lined baking sheet. Be sure to place them about 2 inches apart.
8. Finally, bake them for about 10 minutes or until they are lightly browned on the bottom. Add a light layer of sift confectioners’ sugar for that final touch of sweetness.
Fruit and Nut BarsWhat’s healthier than fruit? Fruit cookies (4), of course! Okay, it’s not healthier than plain fruit, but it’s not far from it. And they taste great! What could be better for your health than pure joy in the form of holiday cookies?
½ cup flour
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
3 cups dried fruit (such as apricots, dates, and cherries), chopped
1 ½ cups dry roasted nuts (such as pecans and almonds), chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. First, you’ll want to preheat your oven to 325 degrees F.
2. Next, whisk together flour, baking soda and baking powder in a large bowl until it’s evenly mixed.
3. Now go ahead and add your sugar, nuts and fruit to the bowl. Mix well until all the pieces are coated.
4. Using a separate bowl, combine your egg and vanilla and beat the mixture until it becomes frothy and thick.
5. Combine the egg and vanilla mixture to your flour mixture.
6. Spread the mixture into a prepared pan. Use a spatula or a spoon to smooth out the top.
7. Finally, bake the mixture for 35 to 40 minutes or until golden brown.
Low-Fat Gingerbread CookiesAh, the classic gingerbread cookie (5). This is a perfect one to conclude our healthy holiday cookie extravaganza, and it’s fun for the kiddos to get creative with the icing by adding fun decorations. So, here’s a new healthy cookie recipe for cooking up one of the most, if not the most, nostalgic holiday treat:
3 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup firmly packed brown sugar
½ cup unsweetened applesauce
1/3 cup dark molasses
3 cups all-purpose flour plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1 ½ tablespoon egg whites
¼ teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 cup powdered sugar
A pinch of cream of tartar
1. First, beat the butter, applesauce, and sugar in a large mixing bowl until the mixture is smooth.
2. Next, add your egg and molasses to the combination and mix well.
3. Now grab a new bowl and begin combining your flour, spices, and baking soda. Once combined, add it to the molasses mixture and make sure to stir well.
4. After mixing the two combinations, divide the newly formed dough into two flat balls. Cover these balls in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.
5. Once the dough has chilled, roll it out on a surface dusted with flour, then preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
6. Roll the dough out to ¼ or 1/8 inch thickness, and sprinkle flour where needed.
7. Now use your cookie cutter to cut gingerbread shapes from the dough.
8. Finally, sprinkle your gingerbread men with flour, place them 1 to 2 inches apart on a silpat-lined baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes.
1. Mix your egg whites with lemon juice.
2. Combine this with your powdered sugar and mix well.
3. Decorate your gingerbread men with icing clothing.
Baking healthy holiday cookies with your family is one of the best ways to make the most of the holiday season. Not only are you reducing your calorie intake, but you're taking it a step further when you decide to utilize substitutes for ordinary food allergens. Jessica says,"Some people eliminate common allergens thinking they have no issues, only to find that they feel so much better once they cut them out. The best advice I can give people is to try something new and see how they feel!" We couldn't agree more. Try one of these holiday recipes this season, and try to substitute where you can. You'll be glad you did.
But, it’s always important to remember that even some of the most joyful cooking experiences can lead to a few minor accidents. A Home Warranty Plan from AHS® can help protect your major cooking appliances from damages and unwanted breakdowns.
2. Minimalist Baker
3. Food Network
ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTOR
Jessica has had a life-long passion for food, and being in the kitchen is where she is the happiest. She began helping her mother cook and bake around the age of three and she's been in the kitchen ever since, including working in a restaurant in her hometown for almost a decade, where she worked every position before finally becoming the lead chef.
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