A week or so ago, we were out celebrating the season and happened upon the best gingerbread cookies. I always lean towards soft cookies, so while I enjoy the spices and flavors of Gingerbread, I typically opt to make another type of cookie that isn’t as crispy. The Gingerbread cookies from Simply Layered were game changers, and the inspiration for today’s holiday recipe! Sweet and spicy with the perfect blend of holiday spices, these gingerbread cookies are the only cookies you’ll need this Christmas!
10 Ways to Lighten Up Your Favorite Holiday Recipes
Earlier this week, I joked with a friend that I would be retiring my scale until after the New Year. With the number of holiday parties I have already attended, and Christmas and New Year’s dinners to prepare, I find it nearly impossible to adhere to any type of formal diet.
Did you know that the average holiday weight gain is around 5 pounds? Holiday mealtimes can exceed 3,000-4500 calories, so finding easy ways to cut those calories can make starting those New Year’s Resolutions a little less painful. Thanks to Smart & Final’s partnership with Registered Dietitian Patricia Bannan, I have some easy ways to lighten up your favorite holiday recipes without taking a shortcut when it comes to flavor.
- Go Light on Appetizers: Opt for healthier appetizers like veggies with hummus, roasted almonds, or whole grain crackers with swiss cheese. Not only are they lighter in calories, they are easier to prepare.
- Start with Soup: A veggie-rich soup like Butternut Squash, Carrot, or Minestrone can help fill you up, making it less likely that you will indulge heavily in calorie-rich dishes.
- Serve with a Salad: Start your holiday meal with a salad filled with a rainbow of vegetables such as cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots. Get in your recommended servings of veggies and avoid filling up on heavier foods. Try Patricia Bannan’s Orange Quinoa Salad with Pomegranate and Tangy Turmeric Dressing which looks beautiful and is filled with the flavors of the holiday season.
- Add More Veggies: Serve your main course with a variety of vegetables or add extra veggies to your favorite holiday dishes. Substitute half cauliflower for half of the potatoes in your mashed potato dish, add carrots and celery to stuffing, or mash cooked carrots into your sweet potato casserole. Tip: Pick up whole, riced, pearled or mashed cauliflower at your local Smart & Final.
- Half the Sugar: This is one of my personal tips for baking and one I use regularly. Halve the brown sugar or maple syrup in your sweet potato casserole and homemade cranberry sauce recipes. Tip from a chef: Remember that if you halve the sugar in baked recipes, it will likely change the texture of your dish. For example, halving the sugar in cookies will make them more crunchy as opposed to soft.
- Use Whole Grains: Substitute brown rice in your stuffing, prepare a quinoa salad, or swap out your dinner rolls for whole grain varieties. Smart & Final offers their Sun Harvest Super Grain Blend to use in dishes.
- Skip the Butter: Opt for olive oil instead of butter in your dishes, specifically grilled veggies and meats. Save the butter for spreading on bread. Pick up Sun Harvest Extra Virgin Olive Oil at your local Smart & Final.
- Go Skinless: Opt for leaner, skinless white meats this holiday season. They are lower in calories and saturated fat. You can also lighten up your holiday meal by substituting half of the white mean for half of the dark meat. Tip: Having a smaller holiday gathering? Cook a turkey breast as opposed to a whole turkey.
- Half the Crust: Slash calories and saturated fat by opting for pies with one crust (i.e. pumpkin) or making your own pie with just a top crust.
- Include Fruit: Set out a variety of fresh fruit such as melons, strawberries, and grapes for a healthier dessert option.
Patricia Bannan also suggests that you shop online so that you are not tempted to make less healthier choices at the grocery store. And when you shop SmartandFinal.com, you’ll receive your groceries in under two hours.
Sweet & Spicy Gingerbread Cookies
Thanks to a tip by my friend, who just happens to be a chef, I made the softest gingerbread cookies and they definitely rivaled the ones we had at Simply Layered. I slightly altered this recipe from Oh, Sweet Basil:
- 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp ground cloves
- 2 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp allspice
- 1 tbsp cinnamon
- 10 tbsp butter softened
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
- 2/3 cup molasses
- 1 egg at room temperature
- 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
- icing for decorating
Whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, allspice and cloves
In a large bowl using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and brown sugar for 3 minutes on medium high speed.
Add the molasses and beat on medium high speed until combined and creamy. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
Beat in egg and vanilla. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Add the dry ingredients to the bowl. On low speed, slowly mix into the wet ingredients until combined. Do not over-mix.
Divide the cookie dough in half and place each onto a large piece of plastic wrap. Wrap each dough up tightly and pat down to create a flat disc shape.
Chill the discs for at least 3 hours.
Preheat oven to 350°F
Line a large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
Remove 1 disc of chilled cookie dough from the refrigerator. Generously sprinkle work surface, hands and the rolling pin with powdered sugar (do not use flour).
Roll out disc until 1/4-1/2″-inch thick. Cut into shapes.
Place shapes 1 inch apart on prepared baking sheets. Re-roll dough scraps until all the dough is shaped. Repeat with remaining disc of dough.
Bake cookies for about 9-10 minutes. Allow cookies to cool for 5 minutes on the cookie sheet. Transfer to cooling rack to cool completely. Ice when completely cool.
The flavor of these gingerbread cookies is absolutely incredible, a delicate blend of sweet and spice. As I mentioned above, omitting the sugar can alter the texture, so these cookies were more like your traditional crispy ginger snaps.
Looking for more recipes to spice up your holiday celebrations? Visit SmartandFinal.com.