Do You Really Eat Cookies?

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"Do you really eat cookies? You're such a health nut." 


As I baked and prepared for a holiday cookie exchange this year, I was asked this question more than once. One of the hazards of being a nutritionist, wellness trainer or health coach is that people hold you to a higher standard! But, the honest answer to this question is, "Yes, I eat cookies… sometimes."


In a recent post on my Food*Fitness*Faith Facebook page, I shared an article on a new study that showed just how addictive sugar is -- much more so than fat. There's no question that we need to cut back drastically on the amount of sugar in our diets. And sugar is hidden (and in plain view) in almost everything these days! That's why I love to follow a sesaonal detox and why I developed my detox guidelines to eliminate sugar all together for a set amount of time. I discuss it in my detox readings, but in short, we can "reset" our sugar addiction by eliminating it for a while. The more often and the longer you do without sugar, the less you crave it. And, the more sensitive your taste buds are to sweetness.


Recently, I purchased a vegan protein smoothie mix by a high-profile weight-loss expert. No, I'm not trying to lose weight, but I often taste new products so I can make recommendations. I listened to a webinar by this person, where she was promoting her new book and her guide to weight loss, which included eliminating a long list of foods. High on that list was sugar. That's why I was shocked and disappointed when I received the shake mix and found that sugar was a prominent component of the mix! The directions say to use 2 scoops for a smoothie, but I find that 1/2 of 1 scoop makes my smoothie so sweet I can hardly stand it! It shows me that my taste buds are very sensitive to sugar, and that I don't need much (or any for that matter). I never add any sweeteners to my smoothies, although there's a small amount of stevia in the green powder I use.


But, back to cookies! I love tradition and I love making Christmas cookies. We all have our favorites that remind us of Grandma, Mom, and Christmases past. I believe life is best lived with family traditions that warm the heart and soul. For that reason, I think it's important to bake those special cookies your mom made for you every Christmas, or make a pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving, or have your Nana's Italian Cream Cake for your birthday. I don't make a habit of baking or eating sweets, but I also don't feel guilty doing so at special occasions. Accepting that special slice of Aunt Flo's Pecan Pie that she made just for you is a way we say, "Thank you, and I love you too!"


As they say, everything in moderation and within reason. Of course, the definition of those terms varies widely and is quite subjective! Additionally, I realize that sugar is addictive, and some people must avoid it always or their addiction rears it’s ugly head immediately. Sugar-holics must avoid sugar like alcoholics must avoid alcohol. Even artificial sweeteners trigger that addiction! So, moderation doesn’t work for everyone. Be aware of your body and your reactions. Let Grandma know why you must turn down that piece of cake, if you must. Work with a nutritionist or coach who understands your unique challenges.


Over the years, I've noticed that I can easily cut the amount of sugar in desserts by about half and actually improve the taste! If you find recipes from Europe, you'll see that Europeans typically use far less sugar in sweets than we do, and they are known for their excellent desserts! My favorite treats are not very sweet at all. So, this year, for the cookie exchange, I made 2 types of cookies, both of which are barely sweet. I don't know if anyone else will like them, but I do!


First of all, I made a family recipe that my mom made for me and I made for my kids every Christmas. We call them Snow Mounds, but they are like some of the Mexican Wedding Cookies I've tasted too. (They are the cookies in the center of the try, sprinkled with powdered sugar.) I did not have to change the recipe at all, as it never called for much sugar in the first place! The one thing I did notice about my old, hand-written recipe is that it supposedly makes 6 dozen cookies. I purposefully made these cookeis small since I knew I'd be taking them to a cookie exchange, yet I still ended up with only 3 dozen! It just goes to show you how much our portion and cookie size has increased over the years!


Next, I decided to make some gluten-free cookies as something new. These turned out chewy, slightly sweet and quite good, especially right out of the oven. I think they were best up until about 3 days old, so don't save them too long. I used a recipe on the back of my bag of almond flour as inspiration, making a few minor changes and reducing the sugar slightly. Recipes below.


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GLUTEN-FREE ALMOND SPICE COOKIES


I had a fun time chatting with the ladies at the exchange. They had a very good idea before we started mixing and matching. Each person uncovered their platter of cookies and  explained what they were. My little cookies that were still double the size they should have been were among the smallest cookies there! And, even though I did not taste every cookie, I have a feeling that mine were probably the least sweet of any there too!


But that doesn't matter. How often do I join a cookie exchange? This is the second one I recall doing in my life, so I'm not worried. The point is to make new friends and appreciate the love and time that went into the preparation and presentation of these pretty treats!


So, this holiday, unless you need to avoid sweets all together for health reasons, enjoy one of Grandma's cookies, her offering of love.


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CAVEAT: If you are trying to lose weight for health reasons, and sweets trigger an addictive response, then you might need to explain that to your family and say, "No." Your friends and family will hopefully understand and not take it personally. Be sure to praise their efforts to provide you with other healthy foods.


SNOW MOUNDS


1 cup soft butter

1/4 cup powdered sugar (plus more for sprinkling)

1/2 Tablespoon water

2 tsp. vanilla

2 cups unsifted flour (I like to use white whole wheat pastry flour)

1 cup chopped pecans


Cream butter and 1/4 cup powdered sugar until fluffy. Beat in water and vanilla. Stir in flour, mixing thoroughly. Add pecans and blend well.


Form into small round balls and bake about 10-15 minutes at 375F. While warm, sift powdered sugar on top or roll in the sugar.


Makes 3-6 dozen, depending on how small you make them. They should be bite-size.



ALMOND SPICE COOKIES – Gluten Free

 

¼ cup organic butter

2/3 cup sugar

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla

¼ tsp. almond extract (optional)

1 T. half and half, milk or almond milk

2 cups almond flour

½ tsp. baking powder

2 tsp. ginger

1 tsp. cinnamon

¼ tsp. allspice

¼ tsp. nutmeg

 

Cream butter and sugar until smooth. Add egg, vanilla, almond extract and milk and beat thoroughly. Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl and then add to the butter mixture, blending well. Preheat the oven to 350F and spray cookie sheets with oil. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto cookie sheets, then press an almond in the center of each cookie. Bake for 20 minutes.

© Bobbi Mullins 2011, All rights reserved. FOOD FITNESS FAITH™