Holiday baking should be fun - not stressful! Use these tips from Meijer Healthy Living Advisor Tina Miller to help take the stress out of holiday baking, and to sneak in a few healthier baking alternatives as well!
#1: Essentials for baking
Purchase fresh baking powder, baking soda and yeast for best results
Measuring cups, spoons
Use liquid measuring cups for oils and liquids
Use nested measuring cups for flours and solids
* Important! Fluff your flour before measuring
For best quality and flavor use: large-sized eggs, unsalted butter and nuts, and pure extracts of vanilla or almond.
Chill dough for cut-out cookies. Soften at room temperature for a few minutes before rolling out. Cool baked cookies completely before decorating.
Leave about two inches of space between cookies on baking sheets so they don't spread into each other.
Do not over-mix or over-bake cookie dough or quick bread batter. Also, properly pre-heat oven before baking.
#2: Shhh … make it healthier, they will never know the difference!
Use white whole wheat flour in place of all-purpose flour (whole grain bonus)
Bake with healthier fats: Smart balance butter blend sticks, Land O' Lakes Canola oil-butter blend
Replace part or all of oil with fruit puree (Mott's applesauce or plum puree)
Sneak in a ground flaxseed and/or oats
Boost the flavor and antioxidants by adding chopped dried fruit such as apricots, cherries, cranberries, dates, prunes or raisins
Add small amounts of chopped nuts; lightly toast the nuts first to really enhance flavor.
Reduce sugar by 25% (no one will notice). If using sugar substitutes, consult the package or manufacturer's website for the correct substitution amounts for granulated sugar.
#3: Save time, save money
Semi-homemade: Cookie and quick bread mixes
Homemade: bar cookies, slice cookies, quick breads (cranberry, pumpkin)
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#4: Storing your baked goods
Save time and money by preparing cookies ahead of time and storing them properly. Many cookies can be baked and then frozen. Alternately, you can freeze the cookie dough to thaw and bake at a later time.
Most cookies can be stored in an airtight container for 3-4 weeks or in the freezer for up to 3-6 months. Store frosted cookies and cookies containing highly perishable ingredients (i.e., cream cheese) in the refrigerator.
If stored cookies harden, place a slice of bread in the storage container and the cookies will soften.
Store cookies in food storage containers with tight fitting lids. Use wax paper to separate cookie layers. Always cool cookies completely before storing.
If preparing multiple types of cooking, store each type separately to preserve the cookie's unique flavors.
When baking cookies in advance for holidays, select cookies that are easy to store. Fragile cookies and iced cookies do not freeze well. For cookies that call for frosting, freeze them unfrosted and then frost after completely thawed.
Keep in mind, it's all about moderation and keeping in control of our eating. Happy baking!