The holiday season is a time to indulge in delicious sweets, but that doesn't mean you have to take in a lot of fat and calories. There are dozens of tempting cookies that give you all the sweet taste you expect without the diet-wrecking consequences. Consider recipes that use health-conscious ingredients, such as oats, whole-wheat flour, and dark chocolate. Current research indicates that cocoa-rich confections actually help control blood pressure, promote blood flow, and keep the heart healthy. So go ahead, indulge! These cookies make great hostess gifts.
Dark Chocolate Florentines
1/3 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup canola oil
2 cups quick-cooking oats
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup low-fat milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup toasted almonds or walnuts, finely chopped
1/2 cup semisweet or dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup apricot preserves
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with foil or nonstick baking mats.
2. Melt butter in a medium saucepan. Remove from the heat. Add oil, oats, sugar, flour, milk, vanilla, salt and nuts and mix well. Drop level teaspoons of dough 3 inches apart onto the prepared baking sheets. Spread each cookie into a thin, 2-inch circle.
3. Bake the cookies, in batches, until set, 5 to 7 minutes. Let cool completely before removing from the foil or mats.
4. When the cookies are cool, melt chocolate chips in a double boiler over hot, not boiling, water (or microwave in 15-second intervals, stirring in between). Spread the chocolate on the flat side of half (about 36) of the cookies. Spread a little jam on the flat side of the remaining cookies. Press the apricot and chocolate halves together to make sandwich cookies.
1 1/2 cups walnut halves (6 ounces)
9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup dried sour cherries (4 ounces), coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread the walnuts on a baking sheet and toast for 8 minutes, or until golden and fragrant. Let cool, then coarsely chop.
2. Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper. In a glass bowl, heat two-thirds of the chocolate in a microwave oven at high power in 30-second bursts until just melted. Stir until smooth. Add the remaining chocolate and stir until melted. Stir in the walnuts, cherries and crystallized ginger until evenly coated. Scrape the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet and spread it into a 12-by-8-inch rectangle. Refrigerate for 10 minutes, or until firm enough to cut.
3. Cut the bark into 48 pieces (6 rows by 8 rows) and transfer to a plate. Serve cold or at room temperature.
4. Make Ahead: The bark can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days or refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.