This email came in from KAXE's girl in the woods, baker and public health advocate, Amber:
I definitely enjoy baking during the winter months, however I usually make yeast breads and lefse, and rather few treats. As for the cookie question, I'm a big fan of spritz cookies with almond extract used as flavoring. Many listeners are probably familiar with these, they are a traditional variety made with chilled dough and the use of a press. It is important to use real butter for these cookies, for the flavor.
I want to remind listeners that while they are making treats this baking season, it's important to take care to use healthy, or healthier oils and fats. Any margarine or vegetable shortenings that contain "hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils" are the worst and should be avoided at all costs. While health experts generally recommend REDUCING saturated fat intake to very small amounts, they also recommend ELIMINATING trans-fats, or those hydrogenated vegetable oils. This is because these fats are made in a lab, and are not found in nature, thus our bodies cannot metabolize them, and they affect our blood and cholesterol in a way much more severe than even animal fats and saturated plant fats (the traditional villains). This is why butter is preferable to margarine. Many recipes that call for margarine can also be made successfully with liquid vegetable oils, such as olive, walnut, grapeseed, canola, soybean, etc. If using olive oil in sweet treats buy a very light colored light flavored variety. There are also non-hydrogenated margarines available, and are generally marketed as such. "Earth balance", and "Smart balance" are two brands I know of. Always always read labels. This goes especially for snack foods.
It's really important to do all that we can to avoid coronary heart disease. Eliminating hydrogenated oils is essential. Remember ANY alternative found in nature is better for you. The holidays are a good excuse to bake some more wholesome homemade treats that are much better for us than those industrial packaged goods that tempt people from grocery store shelves! More information on dietary fats, and specifically hydrogenated oils, can be found on the Harvard School of Public Health Website
Thanks for listening everybody, take care!