Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Healthier Holiday Cookie Recipes

Happy Holidays! 

It's my absolute favorite time of the year. I love the crisp cold air, the smell of pine and the anticipation of seeing my crazy family all in one place. I've turned my apartment into a one-stop-shop for DIY holiday gifts, and I can't stop baking. It’s gotten so bad that my sister refuses to stop by anymore. She claims that she'll gain 20 pounds BEFORE the holiday feast. I saw she should bake more.

In an effort to indulge in my holiday baking obsession WHILE staying healthy, I thought I'd share some of the recipes I found for healthy holiday cookies! I've made them all and they are absolutely delicious. My sister has even agreed to stop by for some of these :)

Iced Oatmeal Applesauce Cookies
1/4 cup reduced-fat margarine (8 grams of fat per tablespoon), melted
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup unbleached white flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup dried cranberries (or other dried fruit)
Streusel glaze topping:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons water (you can add a teaspoon more, if needed)
1/4 teaspoon maple flavoring
1.   Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl fitted with the paddle attachment, beat melted margarine and brown sugar on low speed until combined. Add egg and applesauce; continue to beat till blended (about 2 minutes).
2.   Stop mixer and add oats, flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt to bowl with margarine mixture. Beat on low speed just until blended. Scrape down sides of mixing bowl. Stir in cranberries or chosen dried fruit pieces.
3.   Using a cookie scoop, drop dough scoops (about 1/8 cup of dough) onto jellyroll pan lined with parchment paper, spacing them 2 inches apart. Bake just until set (about 12 minutes). Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
4.   To make icing: In a small bowl, combine powdered sugar, water and maple flavoring, stirring until smooth. Add another 1/2 teaspoon or two of water for desired drizzling consistency. Put cooled cookies side by side in jellyroll pan and, using a teaspoon, drizzle glaze over cookies.

Yield: Makes about 24 cookies

Nutrition Information: Per serving: 125 calories, 2 g protein, 25 g carbohydrate, 2 g fat, 0.4 g saturated fat, 9 mg cholesterol, 1.5 g fiber, 75 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 14%.

Almond Streusel Cookies
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons reduced-fat margarine (with 8 grams fat per tablespoon)
1/4 cup almond paste, broken up into pieces (do this by rubbing between your fingers)
2 tablespoons fat-free half-and-half
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 cup unbleached white flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Additional sugar
2/3 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 teaspoons water
2/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted (2.25 ounces)
1.   Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a jellyroll pan or cookie sheets with parchment paper.
2.   In large mixing bowl, cream margarine and almond paste until blended. Beat in half-and-half, sugar, and almond extract.
3.   In medium bowl, combine whole-wheat flour, white flour, baking powder and salt with whisk. Gradually add flour mixture to margarine mixture, beating on low speed just until blended.
4.   Use a leveled cookie scoop of dough (1/8 cup) for each cookie; place scoops 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheet. Pour about 1/4 cup granulated sugar or colored sugar crystals (red and green look festive) into a small, shallow bowl. Coat bottom of a glass with canola cooking spray, dip in the sugar, and then gently flatten cookie balls. Re-dip glass in sugar as needed.
5.   Bake at 350 degrees for about 8-10 minutes or until edges are just starting to brown. Remove to wire rack to cool.
6.   For glaze: In small bowl, whisk together powdered sugar, almond extract, and about 2 teaspoons water (or amount needed for desired consistency). With a teaspoon, drizzle glaze evenly over the cookies and generously top with sliced almonds.

Yield: Makes about 22 cookies
Nutrition Information: Per serving: 140 calories, 2.2 g protein, 19.5 g carbohydrate, 5.5 g fat, 1.1 g saturated fat, 0.1 mg cholesterol, 1.5 g fiber, 74 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 35%.

Tropical Treasure Cookies

The walnuts in these cookies contain healthy plant omega-3s, monounsaturated fat, and important phytochemicals. They also have dark chocolate, which in small amounts may be good for the heart and arteries and may help lower blood pressure (thanks to the flavonoids in cocoa).
1 cup whole-wheat flour
2/3 cup unbleached white flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons reduced-fat margarine (with 8 grams fat per tablespoon and no trans fat)
1/4 cup light cream cheese or low-fat yogurt (vanilla or any fruit flavor)
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg (use a higher omega-3 brand, if available)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2/3 cup dark chocolate chips (like Hershey's Special Dark Chips)
2/3 cup flaked coconut
1 cup walnut pieces (or pecan pieces)
1.   Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a jellyroll pan or cookie sheets with parchment paper.
2.   In medium bowl, combine flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt with whisk; set aside.
3.   In large mixing bowl, cream together the margarine, light cream cheese or low-fat yogurt, and brown sugar on medium speed until blended and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla; beat on medium to blend. Gradually beat in dry ingredients.
4.   Stir the chocolate chips, coconut, and walnuts into the dough with a wooden spoon.
5.   Using a cookie scoop level with dough (1/8 cup of dough), place scoops of dough about 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheet. Bake for about 8 minutes. Remove to wire rack to cool completely.

Yield: Makes about 3 dozen cookies
Nutrition Information: Per serving: 114 calories, 2 g protein, 13 g carbohydrate, 6.5 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 6 mg cholesterol, 1 g fiber, 91 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 50%.

All of these recipes are provided by Elaine Magee, and can be found here.
Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, is the "Recipe Doctor" for the WebMD Weight Loss Clinic and the author of numerous books on nutrition and health.

I hope you enjoy these as much as I did. Feel free to comment on which recipe you liked best. I also love reading baking stories (the good and the bad) so feel free to share!


Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Picture this: Chocolate + Yoga

Now that the title of this blog post has your attention, let me tell you the good news! There is indeed such a thing as CHOCOLATE YOGA.  A woman’s dream come true, right? I’d have to agree with you on that.

I first came across this article while browsing through Twitter one evening. I’ll admit that I did a double take. You don’t normally come across the words “yoga” and “chocolate” together. When I picture yoga, I see sweaty woman holding intense poses while trying not to pass out (maybe that’s just me). I’ll admit that I’ve gotten better at it, but eating chocolate during the session?! This I head to read about.

"The chocolate associated with this type of yoga practice is of the highest quality, find and exotic so that the flavors stand out and intensify the experience.. After the yoga class is concluded different types of chocolate are introduced while you are still on your mat to immediately deepen the sensation."

If this sounds like heaven to you, check out the article I saw here.

And if you try this type of yoga, PLEASE let me know how it goes. 

Thanks! (and good luck)