Coping, celebrating, and making holiday cookies
Define your delicious moments this season with holiday cookie strategies and recipes from the breast cancer community
The holiday season is traditionally a time to celebrate with family, friends, and festivities. Whether you observe Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, or another tradition, if you are in active treatment for breast cancer or living with metastatic disease you may not be feeling up to rejoicing.
In fact, the holidays may trigger health-related anxieties for some people, while they may feel the pressure to maintain traditions for the sake of their loved ones, even with the additional physical demands (shopping, cooking, social engagements, gift-wrapping, and more) of the season. The urge to over-do is at its highest level this time of year.
To help you find balance between coping and celebrating and to make memories mindfully this season, we offer some strategies for that popular holiday past-time: cookie-making. Plus, easy cookie recipes culled from our community, food-loving physicians, and more.
Holiday cookie-making strategies
Remember: energy is like time and money; it’s limited. Spend it wisely by planning ahead. With a little careful planning, baking cookies can be a great way to make memories and engage in a mindful activity that can help take your thoughts away from stress and worry. Plus, studies have shown that engaging in acts of creativity like baking can make you feel happier. Add loved ones to help you bake (and eat) and turn on a little music, and you’ve got all the ingredients for a joyful celebration.
More tips and tricks:
- Shop for ingredients a couple of days in advance.
- Schedule baking for when your energy level will be highest.
- Get your family and friends involved. Let others do the heavy lifting — and mixing.
- Be mindful when you can. Breathe in the different scents of the process, feel the cool and heavy slickness of butter on your hands, and savor your loved ones’ expressions.
- Ventilate your kitchen when the oven is on to keep cool.
- To save on clean-up, use parchment paper, aluminum foil, and paper baking products – if your budget or ideology allow. If not, delegate clean-up to another adult (or nearly so) cookie-eater.
Recipes from our community
Inspired by conversation on the @livingbeyondbc Instagram, we’re sharing some holiday cookie recipes from our community.
Super easy gingersnaps
—From Valerie Miller, @Valerie923, who was diagnosed in 2007 with Stage I, HER2+ breast cancer and is celebrating 15 years cancer-free this year. She shares a recipe from an Instagram account she follows, Tessa Arias's @handletheheat. Valerie says, "These gingersnaps are a holiday favorite because they are so easy to make and take no time at all to whip up! They’re so nostalgic for me, as they remind me of that box of gingersnaps that was always around the house this time of year when I was a kid."
Ready in 30 minutes
1 1/2 sticks (170 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups (250 grams) granulated sugar, divided
1/4 cup (50 grams) lightly packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup (113 grams) unsulphured molasses (NOT blackstrap)
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 1/4 cups (286 grams) flour
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the butter, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, and brown sugar until light and fluffy for two minutes.
- Add the molasses and egg and beat until combined.
- Add in the salt, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and flour and beat until combined.
- Place the remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a shallow dish.
- Scoop the dough into 1 1/2 tablespoon balls and roll in the sugar before placing on the baking sheet, leaving plenty of room for spread.
- Bake for 15 minutes or until the cookies are spread and the surface looks crackled.
- Let cool on the baking sheets for five minutes before removing to wire racks to cool completely.
Vegan brown sugar chai cookies
—From @femmepharma, who hopes you enjoy them!
½ cup vegan butter
½ cup + 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar (you can also use light brown sugar)
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon dried
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom dried
¼ teaspoon ground ginger dried
⅛ teaspoon star anise optional, ground
1 flax egg = 1 tablespoon (8 grams) ground flaxseed mixed with 3 tablespoons water and left to sit 5 to 10 minutes
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
1 cup and 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons granulated sugar (for rolling cookies in before baking)
Preheat oven to 350 F, line a baking tray with parchment paper, and fill a small bowl with the two tablespoons of granulated sugar.
- Add vegan butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger in mixing bowl. Cream together with an electric mixer until soft and fluffy.
- Add in the flax, egg, and vanilla, and whip together another 30 seconds.
- Add in the all-purpose flour, baking soda, and salt; mix everything together until a thick cookie dough forms.
- Cover the bowl of cookie dough and chill for one hour.
- Remove the dough from the fridge and roll into balls, then roll balls in granulated sugar.
- Place each cookie on the tray and bake for 11 to 13 minutes.
- Let cookies cool on the baking sheet for 5 to 10 minutes and enjoy!
The BEST sugar cookie cut-out recipe
2 cups butter, softened
1 1/2 cup sugar
4 egg yolks
2 teaspoon vanilla
4 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoons salt
- Cream butter and sugar.
- Add egg yolks and vanilla.
- Sift flour and salt together; then beat it into butter mixture.
- Gather batter and shape into disc; wrap with plastic wrap and chill.
- When dough is firm enough to roll out, preheat oven to 350 F.
- Roll dough out to about 1/8 inch on a lightly floured surface and cut with lightly floured cutters. (I usually roll dough out between wax paper or parchment paper.)
- Bake on ungreased cookie sheets about 12 minutes ... do not brown.
- Cool on wire racks.
- Ice and decorate cookies when fully cooled.
Better-for-you baked goods
Whether during or post active treatment or living with metastatic disease, there are plenty healthy holiday sweets you can bake (or ask someone else to bake for you!). Here are a few:
Ginger snap energy bites
American/Swedish registered dietitian, cookbook author, and recipe developer, Amy von Sydow Green MD, MS, RD, makes these little energy bites with dates because she loves the chewy and caramel-like texture they give. While it’s true that dates have plenty of sugar just like regular white sugar and your body will not recognize where that sugar came from, von Sydow Green says that dates also have about 7% fiber, which helps the sugar be absorbed a bit more slowly and is great for healthy digestion.
“Additionally, dates have plenty of vitamins and minerals that we need, like vitamin B6, calcium, iron, copper, potassium, magnesium, and antioxidants,” she says. “Regular sugar doesn’t have any of these nutrients. On top of it, dates have flavor and of course that chewy texture = WIN.”
Ingredients for 20 balls:
5 Medjool dates (soak in water for 15 minutes if they are not soft, remove pits)
2-3 tablespoons water
1/3 cup peanut butter
3/4 cup rolled oats
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1 pinch of cloves
1 pinch of salt
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
- Add dates, two teaspoons of water and peanut butter to your blender. Blend until combined.
- Add rolled oats and spices.
- Blend until your dough comes together. You may need to add an extra dash of water.
- Form little balls with your hands — about a tablespoon of batter per ball.
- Put the chopped pecans on a plate and roll the balls in chopped pecans.
- Store the energy bites in the fridge or freezer.
- Enjoy with a clementine and a big cup of tea!
Tip: Feel free to use any nut butter, and you could also pick another nut for the coating.
More healthy cookie recipes can be found at the American Institute for Cancer Research, like their date, walnut and dark chocolate cookies. Even the Food Network has amassed a collection for healthy holiday cookies. If you’re experiencing nausea from treatment, lemon cornmeal cookies may calm your nausea (or give them to a loved one). And super cookies with “breast-cancer prevention friendly” ingredients? Yes, please!
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