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Limiting ingredients

Cookies made with the perfect amount of ingredients. (Provided photo — Diane Chase)

I was looking online for a cookie recipe because I was too lazy to walk to the end of the kitchen for the recipe book. As I scrolled through countless variations, one common thread was to list the number of ingredients in the recipe. I understand searching for a recipe that eliminates an allergen, like wheat, dairy, sugar, or eggs. Everyone wants to enjoy a treat without an allergic reaction. That makes complete sense. But when is a cookie no longer a cookie after eliminating most ingredients?

According to Britannica, cookies are a small sweet cake based on a simple recipe: three parts flour, two parts fat, and one part sugar. The mixed dough can be rolled, cut or dropped from a spoon. From the basic recipe, all sorts of additional items can be added to the mix, including eggs, dairy and toppings. I’m confident we are all familiar with cookies, the small sweet dessert treat. If not, I’m having mixed feelings and getting off track.

There are many reasons to eliminate ingredients. Some recipes claim to save time or money, while others are supposed to be a healthier “mock” version of a traditional favorite. The more recipes I looked at the more my brain screamed, “liars.” The ease of a few ingredients may not necessarily make a healthier version because the recipe calls for one item that consists of a mixture of numerous other items.

For example, I found a cookie recipe that uses sweetened condensed milk. Yes, it is one ingredient, but each jar consists of milk, sugar, sometimes salt and preservatives. Suddenly, the two ingredients in the mixture have a laundry list of other items premixed for me. Some “easy” recipes were similar to a box mix but with different components. Sticking to a traditional recipe allows me to know each element.

As I mentioned, I understand the need for recipe substitutions for health reasons and dietary restrictions. But is a cookie just dates and oats? The sum of the parts is more granola bar than cookie. My kids love energy bars, but I couldn’t pass one off as a cookie. In our house, cookies are a treat, not a punishment.

I want healthy things to eat, but I also believe it is okay to make and eat a decadent dessert. There is also a very healing process that I get when I bake with my family. Whether you take a minimalist approach, a bowl full of ingredients, or a box mix, don’t let someone else say you don’t deserve a treat. Enjoy!

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