For many of us, sugar cookies play an important part in the upcoming Christmas celebration. Whether you are in the crispy, thin sugar cookie camp, or the cake-like, chewy, sugar cookie camp, they are certainly worthy to enjoy on Christmas Day. But what if you wanted to make your favorite recipe just a little bit healthier? Have no fear! Here are several tips to get you started in the right direction.
Use unbleached white flour
Not all white flours are the same. If you use unbleached white flour, you will be using flour that is simply refined — rather than using flour that has gone through a chemical bath. I don't know about you, but the less chemicals in my food, the better. Alloxan is a by-product in bleached flour that is highly toxic and is linked to diabetes in animal studies. One brand of unbleached white flour that I like to use is Bob's Red Mill unbleached white flour.
Of course, you can always substitute some of the flour with whole wheat flour as well. My preference is to use sprouted whole wheat flour, but I have to special order it online. Using some almond flour is also a delicious, protein-rich addition to your cookies.
Use better sugar
Admittedly, sugar is sugar. However, like the situation with white flour, some sugars are much more refined than others. I also avoid genetically modified (GM) foods, which means I buy organic sugar as sugar beets can be GM. Rapadura or sucanat are the most simply processed, as they are only boiled down to remove the water content. They both have a robust flavor. For a more neutral flavor, evaporated cane juice still retains some trace minerals, and is certainly much less processed than typical white sugar.
Use organic butter
If you want the best cookies ever, try making your cookies with pastured butter (butter from cows that graze on grass). Trader Joe's carries Kerrygold butter, which fits the bill. Make cookies or pie crust with this delicious butter and it makes them instantly taste richer and better (as well as being healthier for you!). Pastured butter is a good source of a lesser known vitamin, K2, which is important for bone health.
Option number two would be to use organic butter, which allows you to avoid the high amount of concentrated pesticides found in nonorganic butter. I also sometimes use coconut oil, which is delicious, but is a little more tricky to use as a substitution. However, it makes a great vegan substitution, so keep that in mind for vegan guests!
Frosting can be one of the most delicious things in the world ... or one of the grossest. Using a simple buttercream with basic ingredients is delicious as well as better for you. (Go read the ingredient list on the frosting tubs in the store sometime for a real scare!) You can buy natural dyes at health food stores for making different colors and even organic sprinkles for decorating!
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