A good scare on Halloween is fine, unless it’s from reading the nutrition label on one of your kid’s treats (or one of your own, for that matter).
But there are plenty of culinary tricks for making your own healthful Halloween treats, especially when it comes to cookies.
Start by replacing up to half the butter, margarine or shortening with heart-healthy oils, such as canola or olive oil.
But be careful. Cookies that use oil instead of butter can be crispier and will dry out sooner, so be sure to store them in airtight containers.
Fruit purees — such as applesauce, pear butter, prune filling (found in the baking aisle of most grocers) or canned pumpkin — also can be used to replace some of the fat.
Using fruit in place of fat will produce cakier or chewier cookies, so it works well in naturally soft cookies, such as oatmeal. Whether using fruit or oil, start with a small amount and experiment.
You also can reduce the overall fat in a cookie recipe by using some nontraditional ingredients, such as nonfat yogurt or buttermilk, both of which help keep baked goods moist without adding fat.
Try starting with 1 to 4 tablespoons of any of these liquid ingredients to replace up to 4 tablespoons of butter or other solid fat.
For healthier cookies, you also can experiment with using cake flour. Because it is milled extra-fine and processed to have only about half the protein of all-purpose flour, it absorbs fat very well. This helps produce cookies that are moist and tender even when they are lower in fat.
These pumpkin double-ginger cookies draw from the whole bag of healthy tricks. Canned pumpkin and nonfat Greek-style yogurt keep them moist, while cake flour helps them stay tender.
Cinnamon and ground ginger pair with the pumpkin for that classic pie flavor, then chopped crystallized ginger sends them into the realm of the supernaturally tasty.
And don’t limit yourself to Halloween treats. All of these tricks work just as well with other holiday cookies.
Pumpkin Double-Ginger Cookies
Start to finish: 45 minutes (25 minutes active); Makes 40 cookies
3/4 cup canned pumpkin puree
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek-style yogurt
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
2 cups sifted cake flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat it to 350 F. Coat 2 baking sheets with cooking spray or line with parchment.
In a large bowl, combine pumpkin, brown sugar, yogurt, oil and vanilla. Whisk until smooth. Stir in crystallized ginger.
In a medium bowl, stir together flour, dry spices, baking soda and salt. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet, mixing until just blended.
Drop tablespoonfuls of batter onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing cookies about 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake, in batches, until lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool.
Nutrition information per cookie (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 54 calories; 7 calories from fat (13 percent of total calories); 1 g fat (0 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 11 g carbohydrate; 1 g protein; 1 g fiber; 38 mg sodium.