Tag Archives: Christmas

Deck the tree with (healthy) cookies!

The festive season means many things, but to me, on the inevitable taste and sensory level that I seem to have as a default mode, December means spices. Cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, oranges, all spice, and so much more. Jewelled colours, rich aromas, and warmth to counteract the wintry chill.

There are so many ways to incorporate this – strategically placed bowls of satsumas, a pot pourri made of dried orange slices, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves and juniper berries, and of course, spiced biscuits!

I love making these gorgeous spiced biscuits that can be used as decorations for a few days before being eaten.

Although based around a gingerbread recipe, if you don’t like gingerbread, leave the ginger out and use other spices – all cooking should be adapted and a creative therapy in itself.

This is a lovely family activity, both creatively and food skills and health-wise. Spices are wonderful for health, as are herbs. Sprinkle around liberally, and add to everything!

Christmas Spiced Tree Cookies

175g dark muscovado sugar
85g golden syrup
100g butter
3 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
350g plain flour, plus extra for rolling out
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 egg, lightly beaten

Heat the sugar, golden syrup and butter until melted. Mix the spices and flour in a large bowl. Dissolve the bicarbonate of soda in 1 tsp cold water. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, add the melted mixture, the egg and the bicarbonate of soda solution. Mix well. At this stage the mix will be soft but will become firmer as it cools in the fridge.

Cover the surface of the biscuit mix with cling film and leave to cool in the fridge for about 1 hr or until it is firm enough to roll out.

Heat the oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead to make a little more pliable. At this stage the dough can be wrapped and kept in the fridge for up to a week, or frozen. Roll out to around 2-3 mm thick. Cut into your favourite seasonal shapes, then transfer to baking trays, leaving room for them to spread. If you plan to hang the biscuits up as decorations, make a small hole in the top of each one using a skewer. Repeat until all the dough is used, or freeze any leftovers for later, to keep the decs going all Christmas – they will get eaten after all!

Bake for around 12-15 mins until they colour a little. If the holes you have made have closed over while baking, remake them while the biscuits are warm and soft using a skewer or knife. Cool for a few minutes on the baking tray, then transfer to a wire rack to cool and allow them harden up completely for decorating. Decorate with icing, edible glitter, or any other decorations you fancy.

If hung up on the tree or around the house, the biscuits will be edible for about a week, but will last a lot longer as decorations. Maybe make in the few days before Christmas for decs that last through the celebrations for some new year nibbles!

Clean Florentines – the perfect Christmas cookie!

We might not be in December’s Christmas madness yet, but Bonfire Night is over, it’s nearly Thanksgiving across the pond, and I’m being booked for events with kids around healthy eating next year. What does that have to do with Christmas cookies, you might ask! Working with organisations and charities that support children and families is something that I love doing, demystifying healthy eating, and how delicious and achievable real food is. The opportunity to be introduced to them via a Christmas Cookie workshop is ideal!

So, what cookie will last well as a gift, be easy to make, and is a Christmas crowd-pleaser? Florentines are perfect, with their scope for adapting and their healthy ingredient swaps. You can make them as ‘clean’ as you please, depending on your budget and what is in your cupboard already. The jewelled nuggets of apricot, blueberry and cranberry makes the biscuits like beautiful seasonal stained-glass feasts for the eyes as well as the taste buds with the chocolate hiding on the bottom of the biscuits. Lovely!

This is the healthiest version, and what I use most often, but there are plenty of swaps you can make:

  • coconut sugar can be swapped for golden caster,
  • coconut oil can be swapped for butter,
  • buckwheat flour can be swapped for ordinary flour,
  • coconut milk can be swapped for ordinary whole milk,
  • almonds can be swapped for whatever nuts or combo you prefer,
  • the fruit can be whatever you choose.

Here’s the full recipe:

Makes about 20

100g almonds, roughly chopped

100g oats

40g dried apricots, chopped small

40g dried blueberries

40g dried cranberries

30g coconut oil

50g coconut sugar

1 1/2 tbsp honey

20g buckwheat flour

150 ml coconut milk

200g dark chocolate

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees, and line a baking tray with baking parchment. Mix the almonds and oats with the fruit, ensuring there are no clumps of fruit sticking together. Melt the oil with the sugar and honey gently in a saucepan until combined, then add the flour, whisking briskly for a couple of minutes until it thickens up. Quickly add the milk, whisking briskly again for a minute until you have a smooth, thick mixture.

Remove from the heat and stir in the fruit and oat mixture. Measure out spoonfuls of mixture onto the baking tray, leaving a bit of spreading room between spoonfuls. Even out and flatten slightly, then bake for around 15 minutes, turning the tray around half way through to ensure an even bake. Leave to cool, and when ready to decorate, melt the chocolate in a bain marie. Place the cookies on another sheet of baking parchment, face down, then drizzle and spread melted chocolate over the bottom of the cookies, and leave to cool and harden. You can also dip the cookies into the chocolate so that you have half and half versions. the choice is yours!

Enjoy your clean cookies with a cuppa before, during or after the seasonal madness!