5 stunning Christmas cookies (and healthy too!)

All year I look forward to baking holiday cookies and sharing them with family and friends. I like to make holiday cookie recipes with a healthy twist and EatingWell's recipes call for no hydrogenated fat, all-natural ingredients, only as much sweetener as is necessary and as much whole-grain flour as possible. Being healthy doesn't detract from being irresistibly delicious-tasting and festive. Here are five of my favorite cookie recipes to share (only you need to know they're healthy).

Apricot-Almond Sandwich Cookies

Elegant and delicious, these cookies are the perfect addition to your holiday spread. For a variation, try with raspberry preserves; you can show off the jewel-like filling by cutting the center out of half of the cookies. Make ahead tip: Prepare through Step 4 up to 2 days ahead.

3/4 cup whole almonds
1 1/4 cups white whole-wheat flour (see Ingredient note)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

Filling & glaze
1/3 cup apricot preserves
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips or 3 1/4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon low-fat milk
1 1/2 teaspoons light corn syrup

1. To prepare cookies: Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 350°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat (see Tip).
2. Process almonds in a blender in 2 batches until finely ground. Transfer to a large bowl and add flour, 1/2 cup butter, sugar and salt. Knead the mixture with your hands until well blended. (The dough will be dry.) Gather the dough into a ball; divide it into 2 portions.
3. Working with one portion at a time, roll the dough between 2 sheets of parchment or wax paper until 1/8 inch thick. Cut out cookies using a 2-inch circular cookie cutter. Using a metal spatula, place them 1/2 inch apart on the prepared baking sheet. (If you like, cut out the centers of half the cookies using a 1-inch cutter.) Gather the scraps, reroll and continue cutting out cookies until the dough is gone. Repeat with the second portion of dough.
4. Bake the cookies, one batch at a time, until puffed and beginning to color, 8 to 10 minutes. Cool on the pans for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
5. To fill & glaze cookies: Spread preserves on half the cookies; top with the remaining cookies to make sandwiches.
6. Melt chocolate and 1 tablespoon butter in a double boiler over hot water. Remove from the heat; stir in milk and corn syrup until smooth. Line 2 baking sheets with wax paper. Dip each sandwich cookie halfway into the chocolate, then place on the wax paper. When all the cookies are dipped, refrigerate until the chocolate has set, 20 to 30 minutes.

Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

NUTRITION INFORMATION: Per cookie: 125 calories; 7 g fat (4 g sat, 1 g mono); 11 mg cholesterol; 14 g carbohydrate; 2 g protein; 1 g fiber; 26 mg sodium; 19 mg potassium.

Ingredient note: White whole-wheat flour, made from a special variety of white wheat, is light in color and flavor but has the same nutritional properties as regular whole-wheat flour.

Lusciously Nutty Holiday Logs
These phyllo rolls with orange and dark chocolate are a lovely addition to any holiday cookie platter.

Patti's Holiday Chocolate Delights
Fudgy, brownie-like and decadent, these fantastic cookies will satisfy any chocolate lover.

Leslie Malcoun's Pecan Tartlets
This is my mom's recipe for delightful mini pecan tarts. They are a classic must-have cookie during the holiday season.

Holiday Cranberry-Orange Pistachio Bars
Studded with cranberries and pistachios, this tart-and-tangy bar cookie is a beautiful addition to your holiday cookie platter and a great make-ahead option.

By Carolyn Malcoun

When associate editor Carolyn Malcoun came to Vermont to attend New England Culinary Institute, she knew she didn't want to work in a restaurant but knew that she wanted to do something in the food industry. Luckily she discovered EatingWell, where she's able to combine her love of food and writing.

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