The Medieval Roots of Ginger (and our Gingerbread Cookies)

Spicy ginger deserves a warm welcome for the holidays as the chill of winter sets in. The root has been grown in Asia for millennia and is used fresh, sliced or minced, in all kinds of savory dishes. Its health-boosting phytochemicals and possible ability to quell an upset stomach also make it popular around the world as a tea, candy and dried and as a ground spice in baked sweets.Candied fresh and ground ginger on rustic table

Historians have traced European use of gingerbread back to the Crusades in the 11th century. Medieval folk would mix together ground almonds, stale breadcrumbs, rosewater, sugar and ginger them press it into molds sometimes carved in the likeness of royal family members or religious symbols. Shakespeare referred to gingerbread in his play “Love’s Labor’s Lost,” and gingerbread was reputedly a favorite food of Queen Elizabeth.

ginger-lemon-cookies croppedToday we have the luxury of flour to use in making fragrant gingerbread loaves and cookies to spice up the winter holidays. Molasses and brown sugar give gingerbread the characteristic taste and chewiness we enjoy today.

AICR’s Health-e-Recipe for Ginger Snaps are crisp outside and soft inside, using less fat as well as some whole-wheat flour to make them better for your healthy, plus cinnamon and a dash of black pepper for extra zing. At 75 calories and only 3 grams of fat per cookie, they’re less unhealthy than some other holiday treats and one or two will satisfy the gingerbread fan in you.

Controlling the Crispness

If you like crisper cookies, use a non-dairy stick shortening that is a blend of oils. Or, for a softer texture, use a soft tub spread instead for cookies that have a crisp outer layer then turn chewy overnight. The softer cookies’ batter can be dropped from a spoon onto your baking sheet.

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For more yummy AICR recipes using ginger, try Carrot Soup with Orange and Ginger, Ginger Carrot Salad with Cranberries and Asian Chicken with Honey and Ginger.


“Healthy” Girl Scout Cookies?

Did you know it was National Girl Scout Cookie Day last Friday? There are many months and days dedicated to specific issues, but this one caught my attention – and not for the right reasons.canstockphoto5469124(1)

Full disclosure – I am a mother of a girl scout and, as such, a co-peddler of cookies. I have served my time knocking on doors in January, encouraging weary little feet to try just one more street and teaching an elementary age scout to accept “no-thank you” with grace and a smile.

We know Girl Scout Cookies are a treat; they are not low in fat, sugar or calories. I have struggled with the fact that selling lots of boxes provides the funds for the programs that benefit my daughter. We are respectful of people when they say – I’m watching my weight or need to cut down – and our own family order is modest. (Working here at AICR, I know that being overweight increases the risk of seven cancers and so it’s important for adults – and kids – to have healthy eating habits for cancer prevention and just overall good health.)

Our region had the standard menu of cookies this year, so I only learned on Friday that another cookie – with “health benefits” – was being offered in some parts of the country. The Mango Creme Cookie comes with a creme filling apparently enhanced with nutrients, which, according to the promotional blurb “offer the benefits of eating cranberries, pomegranates, oranges, grapes and strawberries.” Continue reading