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Chef and nutrition expert Christina Pirello is a regular contributor to Wellwellwell, where she shares her expertise on how readers can look and feel their best with natural, organic foods.
It’s that time of year. The air is crisp and cold. We’ve packed away flip-flops and t-shirts for boots and sweaters. Lights are untangled and ready to adorn the tree, windows and doorways. The holiday season is here and with it, the joy of cookies!
A whiff of chocolate chip cookies can conjure a flood of nostalgic memories. The act of baking soothes the senses. Touch, hearing, sight and taste are stimulated as you knead dough, stir batter, measure ingredients and sample your work along the way.
Thick and chewy or thin and crispy—who can resist a delicious cookie? We think of cookies as sweet treats to enjoy at a party or a simple weeknight dinner. They are easy to make and small enough to enjoy a few without guilt.
However, cookies made from white flour and refined sugar—no matter how tasty—can make you feel lethargic instead of rosy-cheeked and celebratory. You’ll want to hibernate on the sofa—not party with your friends.
Breathe. I am not recommending you grimly endure the holiday season with no treats. Au contraire! Good quality sweets make us happy, help us manage stress and relax. They are comforting and nothing says ‘it’s the holidays’ quite like a platter of yummy (healthy) cookies. Try these recipes and you’ll soon have the scent of fresh-baked treats wafting through your kitchen.
THE ULTIMATE COOKIE DOUGH BASE
With few exceptions, I use a specific cookie dough base for all my cookie-baking. It results in perfect cookie texture and flavor and allows me to create endless variations.
8 tablespoons vegan butter substitute
½ cup brown rice syrup
¼ cup coconut sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Whip the base until creamy. Yields about 36 cookies.
You can keep this base in the fridge in a sealed container for 1-2 weeks. From this base, you can create chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal raisin cookies, chocolate cookies, peanut butter cookies, sugar cookies…the list goes on.
THE BEST CHOCOLATE CHUNK COOKIES
No kidding, the best—ever. Everyone who tastes these says they are the best.
1 recipe Ultimate Cookie Dough Base
1 ½-2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
Pinch ground cinnamon
Pinch sea salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ cup coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts
1 (3.5-ounce) bar vegan dark chocolate (70% or more), coarsely chopped
Preheat oven to 350°F and line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Using a hand mixer or a whisk, create Cookie Dough Base as per recipe. Mix in flour, cinnamon, salt and baking soda/powder to form a stiff cookie dough. Fold in nuts and chocolate until incorporated through the batter. Wet a teaspoon and your fingers, and spoon cookie dough onto the lined sheets, allowing room for the cookies to spread, (about a dozen cookies per standard sheet). Bake for 13-14 minutes. Remove from oven and allow cookies to stand for 2 minutes on the sheet tray. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Yield 36-38 cookies.
For more healthy holiday treats, click here.
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