By Hilary Meyer
On the day of the final taste test for our annual holiday cookie contest, the excitement in the EatingWell office mingled with the scents of cinnamon and toasted nuts. People had trouble staying at their desks. They couldn’t wait to get into the Test Kitchen to taste the 10 semi-finalist cookies and vote for their top picks. “I love cookies! Today is definitely my favorite day at EatingWell,” squealed Brierley Wright, our associate nutrition editor, when she saw the rows of cookies cooling on racks in the kitchen. Anne Treadwell, our research editor, had the day off. But that didn’t keep her away—she biked to EatingWell to participate. We had to ban one overly enthusiastic co-worker who knocked on the kitchen door for seconds and thirds. After everyone tasted and voted, we had our six winners.
As in years past, we asked you, our readers, for your best holiday cookie recipes, with a few caveats—use no partially hydrogenated oils or artificial ingredients, limit salt and include whole grains when possible. We received more than 370 recipes and baked thousands of cookies.
It may sound like an oxymoron, but baking healthy and delicious cookies is possible. Mary LaRock, a registered dietitian from Waukesha, Wisconsin, about 20 miles west of Milwaukee, told us her beautiful and easy-to-make Lusciously Nutty Holiday Logs reflect her personality. She says, “I am a creative person by nature but I am also practical.” She teaches healthy cooking at a local technical college where she shares her philosophy about nutrition and food. She says, “Food should be tasty, healthful and appealing all at the same time.” We couldn’t agree more.
For other entrants, holiday cookies evoke fond memories of family and friends. Artist Allyson Smith, age 29, grew up in the small town of Niskayuna, New York, just northwest of Albany. Recently, she and her husband moved to Bloomington, Indiana, so she could pursue her MFA at Indiana University. “I have never entered a cooking contest before. I entered this on a whim, really,” Allyson told us as she recalled her last-minute dash to the grocery store after realizing the deadline for entries was fast approaching. She says her mother, who coached her over the phone, was a big part of the success of her Dark Chocolate Florentines.
Retired occupational therapist Nancy Caverly, from Mexico, Missouri, has been married for 47 years. In those years, she has baked a lot of cookies: a batch every two weeks, in fact, to share at church events and to package and send to her three kids and their children. But when it comes to her Yummy Molasses Crackles, “I find that they disappear quickly in the cookie jar—my husband seems to sample freely when they are available,” she joked.
It was a tough job to pick only six winners this year from a hefty stack of recipes that were some of the best we’ve ever tasted. But in the end, we all agreed that our grand-prize winner, Frances Van Vynckt from Hammond, Indiana, deserved the blue ribbon. Her sweet, melt-in-your-mouth Angel Delights were named after her six children, whom she liked to refer to as “little angels.” These cookies promise to be a standout on any holiday cookie tray.
For this contest, it’s not just about sharing a recipe, it’s about sharing your favorite flavors and memories and for that we are grateful. So here’s to health, sweets, memories and six of the best cookies around. See all 6 delicious reader recipes from our 4th annual cookie contest.