What better time for a cookie

Published 4:50 pm Saturday, December 3, 2011

A perfect time of year for a cookie.

One of the greatest holiday traditions is baking cookies.

Have you ever wondered where this tradition comes from? Hundreds of years ago, sugar was very expensive, so sweet treats and gourmet desserts were only part of wealthy individuals’ diets.

For other people, they were a special treat saved for holidays and special occasions. The first cookie traditionally associated with holidays was found in medieval European cookbooks –the delicious gingerbread cookie.

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Since then, holiday cookies have taken on new ingredients, new shapes and new flavors.

Cookies are one of the fastest and easiest treats to make. They are a simple combination of flour, butter, sugar, eggs, baking powder/soda and flavorings. They come in many different shapes, sizes, textures and flavors.

There are six basic cookie styles: drop, bar, molded, pressed, refrigerator or rolled.

• A drop cookie is made by dropping spoonfuls of dough onto a baking sheet.

• A bar cookie is a batter spooned into a shallow pan, baked and cut into bars.

• A molded cookie is made by shaping the dough in your hands, then placing it on a baking sheet and baking it.

• A pressed cookie is formed by pressing dough through a cookie press or pastry bag to form fancy shapes and designs.

• Refrigerator cookies are made by shaping the dough into a log, which is refrigerated until firm, then sliced and baked.

• Rolled cookies are rolled into a thin layer. Shapes are then cut out using a cookie cutter; cookies are placed on a baking sheet and baked.

Instead of turning down all your holiday favorites, why not create healthier versions to enjoy? One of the easiest ways to reduce fat and calories in baked goods is to substitute unsweetened applesauce or other fruit purees (such as pumpkin puree or prunes from the baby food aisle) for at least half the fat in the recipe. Have you ever thought of avocado?

Nutrient Comparison

• 1 cup vegetable shortening: 205 grams fat, 1,812 calories.

• 1 cup butter: 184 grams fat, 1,628 calories.

• 1 cup avocado: 35 grams fat, 384 calories (works well in muffins, quick breads and some cookies).

• 1 cup applesauce: 0 grams fat, 104 calories (works well in muffins, cakes, quick breads and brownies).

By replacing half to two-thirds of the fat in your recipes, you will be able to enjoy the flavors of the season while eating a little more heart-healthy. Just take a look at this example: If you replace one cup of butter with 2/3 cup applesauce and 1/3 cup butter, you save 1,022 calories and 122 grams of fat. In a cake serving eight, that results in a savings of 128 calories and 15 grams of fat per serving.

Pumpkin-banana bread

Serves 12

All you need:

• Non-stick cooking spray

• 2 cups all-purpose flour

• 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder

• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

• 1 teaspoon grated orange zest

• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

• 1/2 teaspoon salt

• 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

• 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

• 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin (or 1-1/4 cup homemade pumpkin puree)

• 2 large eggs

• 1 cup sugar

• 1/2 cup mashed ripe banana

• 1/2 cup canola oil

All  you do:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray.

2. Stir together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, orange zest, baking soda, salt, ginger and cloves in medium bowl.

3. Stir together pumpkin, eggs, sugar, banana and oil in large bowl.  Stir flour mixture into pumpkin mixture until just combined.

4. Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 55-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.  Cool on wire rack for 10 minutes before removing.

Nutrition Facts per Serving: 250 calories, 10 g fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat, 35 mg cholesterol, 230 mg sodium, 37 g carbohydrates, 2 g fiber, 4 g protein.