In the Mediterranean, every meal can be a special occasion. Regional cooks take pride in their fresh ingredients, their family recipes, and their local specialties. But holidays and other celebrations are cause for extra care, as well as a host of favorite dishes traditionally associated with those celebrations.
Mediterranean Christmas cookies are simple, time-honored sweets made with few ingredients, using spices and flavorful sweeteners like honey and dates to build flavor while keeping added sugar to a minimum. The key to healthier dessert choices is to add wholesome ingredients like nuts, seeds, whole grains, fruits—
and even vegetables, sometimes!
For instance, in the south of Spain one traditional treat is
turnovers filled with sweet potato and ground almonds, delightful and not difficult to make. Throughout Italy
are a classic, featuring nutty flavors and spices, while
fig-stuffed cookies traditionally served at Christmas time. In Greece, festive
dusted in powdered sugar for a snowball effect and
are made with walnuts, olive oil, honey, and spices.
Too often, holiday cookies and decadent pastries consist of little more than refined grains and sugar. Fortunately, most desserts
that contain refined grains can be
made with whole grains instead
, without sacrificing flavor or texture. Start swapping out all-purpose flour for whole wheat pastry flour or whole white wheat flour in baked goods; either one will contribute a subtle nutty flavor and extra fiber, yet is lighter than regular whole wheat flour
just perfect for cookies.
In many cookie recipes you can also change out some or all of the butter for olive oil. Use these conversions to make the switch to olive oil in your favorite recipes: