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 when it comes to making your own healthful Halloween treats, especially when it comes to cookies.
Start by replacing up to half of 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 section of most grocers) or, to really get in the Halloween spirit, canned pumpkin — also can be used to replace some of the fat.
Using fruit or pureed pumpkin in place of fat will produce cookies with a cakier or chewier texture, so it works well in naturally soft cookies, such as oatmeal. Whether using fruit or oil, it's best to 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.
When making healthier cookies, you also can experiment with using cake flour. Because it is milled to an extra-fine consistency 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.
This recipe for pumpkin double-ginger cookies draws 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 to create that classic pumpkin pie taste, but the addition of 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.
How to make them
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
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
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 the pumpkin, brown sugar, yogurt, oil and vanilla. Whisk until smooth. Stir in the crystallized ginger.
In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, cinnamon, ground ginger, baking soda, salt and nutmeg. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet, mixing until just blended.
Drop tablespoons of the batter onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing cookies about 11/2 inches apart. Bake, in 2 batches if necessary, until lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool.
Nutrition information per cookie (values rounded to the nearest whole number): 54 calories; 7 calories from fat (13 percent of total calories); 1 gram fat (0 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 milligrams cholesterol; 11 g carbohydrate; 1 g protein; 1 g fiber; 38 mg sodium.