Add eight key ingredients and have everything on hand to make all sorts of (lightened) holiday treats. By Katherine Brooking, MS, RD
With our lightened recipes for home-baked sweets, you'll feel great about treating your guests (and yourself) to some guilt-free
goodies. If you already have the basics―sugar, milk, eggs, butter, baking powder/soda, cream of tartar, vanilla extract, cake
and all-purpose flours, spices, and so on―you're in good shape. For $25, add a few key ingredients that expand your options
for delicious holiday treats. Remember, a well-prepared host is a happy one.
Flaked sweetened coconut $2.19
Unsweetened baking chocolate $2.39
Semisweet chocolate baking chips $1.79
Unsweetened cocoa powder $2.79
Seedless raspberry jam $4.99
Key Ingredients: Raspberry jam
These elegant cookies―as delicious as they are stunning―are perfect for gifts, cookie swaps, and holiday spreads. Sure, they’re not nutritional knockouts (straining the jam removes all the seeds, which are a source of fiber), but they’re not serious offenders either. Smooth raspberry jam adds delicious flavor, with fewer calories than the buttery icing or chocolate glaze you might find on other cookies. Each windowpane contains about 80 calories.
View Recipe: Raspberry Linzer Windowpane
Key Ingredients: Chocolate chips, oatmeal, pecans
A good recipe to make with kids, these drop cookies are easy and fun. The recipe calls for chocolate mini-chips, but the regular ones work fine. Nutrition bonus: The pecans provide a crunchy texture and good nutrition to boot. These tasty tree nuts contain more than 19 vitamins and minerals – including vitamin A, vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, several B vitamins, and zinc―plus good-for-you fats.
View Recipe: Oatmeal, Chocolate Chip, and Pecan Cookies
Key Ingredient: Raspberry jam
This is another fun recipe to make with kids, who will get a kick out of seeing egg whites rise into cloudlike meringue, then leaving their signature thumbprint in each puff before baking. To keep it kid-friendly, leave out the raspberry liqueur. (If the jam seems thick, stir in a few drops of lemon or lime juice.) At just 37 calories apiece, these treats won't ruin anyone's appetite for a healthful dinner.
View Recipe: Thumbprint Meringues
Key Ingredients: Flaked sweetened coconut, semisweet chocolate chips
Who doesn't love a cupcake? They're less intimidating than a big white cake, and easier to carry to a celebration. In addition to letting each guest enjoy her own miniature angel food cake, there's a lovely surprise inside―chocolate chips! This recipe calls for mini chips, but use what you've got―different size, same chocolate goodness.
View Recipe: Chocolate Chip Angel Cupcakes with Fluffy Frosting
Key Ingredient: Flaked sweetened coconut
Great for coffee with unexpected guests, biscotti is a smart thing to have on hand during the holidays. Sure, you have to bake twice to achieve the crisp-yet-crumbly texture that's a hallmark of biscotti. But that's the good thing about this recipe―you can make it ahead whenever it suits you. It's one tough cookie (and we mean that in the best possible way), so it travels well―to gatherings or in even in the mail.
View Recipe: Coconut Biscotti
Key Ingredients: Unsweetened cocoa, unsweetened chocolate, semisweet chocolate chips
No mixer? No problem. You won't need one for this surprisingly easy, aptly named dessert. Antioxidant-rich chocolate makes three appearances here―as cocoa powder, unsweetened chocolate, and semisweet morsels. If you don't have ramekins, use muffin pans. The best part about this dessert: utter indulgence for a perfectly reasonable 315 calories. (Before we lightened it, this recipe contained 546.)
View Recipe: Chocolate Decadence
Key Ingredients: Chocolate chips, pecans
Crusty on the outside, gooey and sweet within, this snack cake is as easy to make as a bar cookie. Just spread the batter in a pan and bake until the top is golden, then cut into squares and serve. The combination of nuts and chocolate is always a winner, and this version works well with coffee, for dessert, or as part of an elaborate holiday brunch.
View Recipe: Pecan-Chocolate Chip Snack Cake
Key Ingredient: Cocoa
If you need a reason to feel better about indulging your chocolate craving, remember this: Short-term studies have suggested that consumption of cocoa may provide cardiovascular benefits due to compounds known as flavanols. Generally, the higher the concentration of cocoa, the more flavanols are in the product, so splurge on the best.
View Recipe: Chocolate Shortbread
About the author: Cooking Light contributor Katherine Brooking is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in nutrition education from Columbia University.