Good and Good-For-You Holiday Cookies from Christina Pirello

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.

Good quality

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.
A whiff
THE BEST CHOCOLATE CHUNK COOKIES

No kidding, the best—ever. Everyone who tastes these says they are the best.

Christina's Chocolate Chip Cookies

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.

CHOCOLATE-WALNUT BISCOTTI

This Italian classic cookie is made with eggs–lots of eggs. It’s hard to create a crisp, crunchy biscotti without them; some would say impossible. Enter chia seeds. Not only nutrient dense, hydrophilic and loaded with fiber, these wee seeds do what eggs do in baking.

Christina's Biscotti

1 teaspoon chia seeds soaked in 2 tablespoons water for 30 minutes
1 recipe Ultimate Cookie Dough Base
2-2 ¼ cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
Pinch sea salt
Generous pinch ground cinnamon
½ cup coarsely chopped walnut pieces
1 cup vegan dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment.

Using a hand mixer or a whisk, whip soaked chia with Cookie Dough Base. Mix in flour, baking powder/soda, salt and cinnamon to form a stiff dough. Fold in nuts and chocolate until well combined.

Divide the dough in half and knead each half in your hands 3-4 times. Form each half into a long log, the length of the baking sheet and about 2-3 inches wide. Both logs will fit on the baking sheet. Bake for 30-32 minutes, until the log is firm but springs back to the touch. Allow to cool on the sheet for 5 minutes. Carefully transfer the baked logs onto a dry cutting board. Using a serrated knife, cut the logs into wedges (about 13 per log) and lay the cut cookies, cut-side up on the parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 6 minutes. Turn the cookies so the other cut side is up and bake for 6 minutes more. Allow to cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet and then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. Yield 30-32 biscotti.

About the Author

Christina_Portrait_headshotChristina Pirello is a chef, Emmy Award-winning television personality and cookbook author. Passionate about natural and whole foods, she's made it her purpose in life to show others how they can look their best and feel great too, by learning to eat natural, organic food.