Friday recipes: holiday treats

This time of year, I find myself fantasizing about colleague Katie’s peanut butter fudge, my spouse’s spritz cookies and the white-chocolate-dipped peanut butter Ritz cracker sandwiches my kids love. We humans are hard-wired to seek sweets, and the holidays are an easy time to get stupid on sugar. I’m not advocating for a ban on all holiday sweets and treats, however. This season, while I’m focusing on the fun of family and friend festivities, the great blessing of good health and the opportunity to imagine the year ahead, I’m also going to enjoy holiday treats, too, albeit healthier ones: Thanks to DMU Wellness Director Joy Schiller, M.S., CHES, for suggesting the following recipes for goodies that are delicious and guilt-free.

Enjoy the sweets of the season - in moderation.


Peppermint criss-cross cookies

  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/3 cup crushed peppermint candies or candy canes

Place oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and heat to 350 degrees. Combine flour, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, beat butter until creamy with an electric mixer on medium speed, about 1 minute. Add sugar and beat until well-blended, about 4 minutes. Reduce speed to low. Beat in egg and vanilla until blended. Add flour mixture, beating until well blended. Stir in crushed candies.

Form dough into 1-inch balls. Place on two large ungreased baking sheets 2 inches apart. Firmly press top of each cookie with tines of a fork to form a criss-cross pattern. Bake until cookies are golden on bottom and firm in center, 14-15 minutes, rotating baking sheets halfway through baking time. Let cookies cool slightly on baking sheets, about 3 minutes. Transfer cookies to racks and let cool completely. Makes 36 cookies.

Calories per cookie: 109; fat: 5 g; sodium: 3 mg; carbs: 14 g; protein: 1 g; calcium: 9 mg


Chocolate pumpkin muffins
Mix one box of chocolate cake mix (or any other flavor) with one 15-ounce can of pumpkin. Add a little water as needed, but not too much; the batter will be very thick. Bake cupcakes according to cake mix directions. Makes 24 cupcakes.

Calories: 86; fat: 1.3 g; fiber, 1.2 g.


Pineapple angel food cake

  • 1 angel food cake mix (the one-step kind)
  • 1 can lemon pie filling OR 20-ounce can crushed pineapple with juice OR 1 can cherry pie filling
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Powdered sugar

Heat oven to temperature on the cake mix box. Place dry cake mix in large metal or glass bowl. Add pie filling or pineapple and vanilla. Beat with a mixer on medium speed until well blended. Pour into an ungreased 9×13-inch baking pan and bake for 20 minutes. When almost cool, sprinkle powdered sugar over the top. When completely cooled, cut into 18 pieces.


Banana nut crumb cake (from Weight Watchers)

  • 14-ounce banana cake mix
  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 large banana, ripe and mashed
  • ½ cup uncooked quick oats
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • ¼ cup chopped walnuts

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Coat an 8-inch square pan with cooking spray. Combine cake mix, water, applesauce and egg whites in a large bowl. Stir about 50 strokes with a spoon until mix is moistened; pour into prepared pan.

Combine banana, oats and walnuts in a medium bowl and mix well. Drop in spoonfuls over cake batter. Bake until center is puffed and set, about 30 minutes. Cool 20 minutes before cutting into 12 pieces.


Sweet potato brownies (from Food & Communications)

  • 1 stick trans-fat free margarine
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup Splenda sweetener
  • 5 egg whites
  • ½ tablespoon vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup oatmeal
  • ½ cup baking cocoa
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup mashed, cooked sweet potato (without skin)
  • ¼ cup chopped pecans

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray a 9×13-inch baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. Cream the margarine, sugar and Splenda together. Add the egg whites one by one. Scrape the bowl well. Add remaining ingredients, except pecans, and mix well. Spread batter into the pan. Top with pecans and bake until the brownies are firm in the center, approximately 30 minutes. Makess 16 servings.


Holiday sugar cookies (from Weight Watchers)

  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup reduced calorie margarine, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • ¼ cup light corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoons vanilla abstract
  • 2¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom, if desired

Icing (optional):
2 large egg whites
2 cups powdered sugar, lightly packed

With a mixer on medium speed, beat sugar and margarine together until crumbly. Add egg, corn syrup, lemon juice and vanilla; beat until smooth and pale in color.

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cardamom. Slowly beat flour mixture into margarine mixture until well-blended. Divide dough into four equal parts and flatten each quarter to form a round. Wrap each in plastic, refrigerate 30 minutes or overnight.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray. On a lightly floured board, roll out one round to ¼ – 1/8 inch thickness. With a floured cookie cutter, cut out cookies and transfer them to the baking sheet, about 2 inches apart. Repeat with remaining dough. Bake until golden brown on the bottom, 5-9 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely. Makes 24 cookies.

Icing: In a large bowl, whip the egg whites and powdered sugar at low speed until sugar is moistened. Beat on high speed until glossy and stiff peaks form when beaters are lifted, about 6 minutes. Add food if desired.


Chocolate marshmallow fudge (from Weight Watchers)

  • 1 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup fat-free evaporated milk
  • 2 tablespoon reduced-calorie margarine
  • 12 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 14 large marshmallows

Coat an 8 x 8-inch pan with cooking spray. Stir together the sugar, evaporated milk and margarine. Bring to a boil in a sauce pan, reduce heat to medium-low and cook three minutes, stirring constantly.

Stir in chocolate and marshmallows. Remove from heat and stir until smooth. Pour into pan and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours. Cut into 36 squares. Store fudge in refrigerator or freezer for a firmer consistency.


Almond fudge truffles (from Weight Watchers)

  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa, plus additional for coating truffles
  • 2 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • ½ cup light cream cheese, at room temperature
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract

In a medium bowl, with an electric mixer on high speed, blend ½ cup unsweetened cocoa, powdered sugar, cream cheese and almond extract. Drop the mixture by rounded teaspoons into the additional cocoa powder, making 24 truffles. Roll into balls and refrigerate until firm, 1–2 hours.


Peanut clusters

  • 1 package white almond bark
  • 24 ounces dry roasted peanuts
  • 16 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • ½ box Baker’s unsweetened chocolate squares

Break up almond bark, chocolate chips & bakers chocolate squares. Melt in microwave for 90 seconds, stirring every 15 seconds. Stir until blended and creamy. Add peanuts and drop onto aluminum foil; cool until set. Store
in an air-tight container.


“Tofu House” chocolate chip cookies

  • 1 cup unsalted margarine
  • 1 cup unrefined cane sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light molasses
  • 4 tablespoons Mori-Nu silken lite firm tofu, pureed
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1¾ cup unbleached flour
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 12 ounces chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cream margarine, sugar and molasses until light and fluffy. Add tofu puree and vanilla and beat for another minute.

Mix flours, soda and salt in small bowl. Add to creamed mixture and mix at low speed with the electric mixer or lightly with a rubber spatula blending in all of the flour. Fold in chocolate chips. Drop rounded teaspoons on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake 8-10 minutes. Cool on wire rack.

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