Drop Everything and Make Cookies

Bourbon-Orange Pecan Pie Bars

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

Tradition reigns at Christmas, and a tradition I treasure is baking cookies. When holiday chores loom, I’ll postpone mailing, wrapping and other to-dos, to get to work in the kitchen.

I pay attention to “added sugars” and have cut back. I’m thrilled that the new food label, debuting in 2020, will list total and added sugars. But Christmas is not Christmas without a cookie or two.

I agree with fellow dietitian Lauren Zimmerman (1), ‘The diet industry really overemphasizes holiday weight gain and this sense of the holiday season equating to a “bad track” …. Let the holidays integrate into your life and you can absolutely maintain your healthy lifestyle.’ She offers suggestions for finding balance during the season.  My blog on Holiday Stress (2) with a Sugar Cookie recipe, has more.

Don’t fall into the healthy cookie trap, either. I’m guilty of doing what others do – trying put a health halo around cookies by using whole grain flour for white flour, mashed avocado or banana for butter, and smashed dates for refined sugar. Let’s not fool ourselves, it’s fun to pump up their nutrient and fiber content a bit, but cookies are fundamentally a treat. A little ball of sunflower butter mixed with dates, oats and chia seed is no Russian Tea Cake.  It’s fine to enjoy the real thing – especially now.

Here’s a favorite – pecan pie bars with bourbon and orange – flavors that remind me of my grandmother, Pearl, who loved her bourbon. Cut them small or large, depending on the number of other cookies on your plate. Most people will try them all.

Have a sweet holiday.

Bourbon Orange Pecan Pie Bars


2/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour

2/3 cup all-purpose flour

2/3 cup packed light brown sugar

¾ teaspoon orange zest

Pinch of salt

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

2 tablespoons avocado or other vegetable oil


3 large eggs

½ cup packed light brown sugar

1 cup corn syrup

2 tablespoons bourbon

2 tablespoons pecan, walnut or hazelnut oil, or a neutral oil such as avocado

1 teaspoon orange zest

Pinch of salt

2 cups chopped pecans

1.Preheat oven to 350°F.

2.Spray bottom and sides of a 13-x-9-inch pan with nonstick spray.  In bowl of a food processor, combine flours, brown sugar, zest and salt. Process for a few seconds to blend.  Sprinkle butter pieces over flour mixture and drizzle in oil.  Pulse until butter is incorporated. Press dough into an even layer in the bottom of the pan. Bake crust for 8 to 0 minutes, until edges just begin to brown. Remove from oven.

  1. While crust bakes, make filling. Break eggs into a medium bowl. Whisk to blend. Whisk in sugar, corn syrup, bourbon, zest and salt. Blend well. Stir in pecans. Spread filling evenly over crust.
  2. Return to oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until filling is just set. Cool on wire rack. Cut into 24 or 32 bars.


  1. Here’s Why You Don’t Need to “Get Back on Track” After the Holidays, by Lauren Zimmerman, December 6, 2018. Foodandnutrition.org
  2. Holiday Stress and Holiday Eating (Rolled Sugar Cookies) lorelledelmatto.com

© Lorelle S Del Matto 2018

lorelle About lorelle

Crazy about cooking, eating and sharing good food – my work and leisure revolve around the kitchen. As a culinary dietitian my professional life encompasses nutrition counseling and education, recipe development, product development, food and nutrition writing, marketing communications, corporate test kitchen and consumer affairs management, food styling and work as a product spokesperson.

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