Adding Your Own Twist To Easter Cookies

As executive director of Hawaii Meals on Wheels, helping others has become a life’s work for Claire Shimabukuro. Born and raised in Hawaii, she has lived and worked in cities across the Mainland.

“I have been with the voiceless and marginalized, as well as the rich and powerful,” she recalls. “The mission of Hawaii Meals on Wheels is in alignment with who I am and what I believe, and that’s a great feeling.”

Every day, Hawaii Meals on Wheels delivers hot, nutritious meals to home-bound seniors and those who are disabled and not able to shop for their own groceries or cook their own meals.

Now celebrating its 34th anniversary, Hawaii Meals on Wheels plans to deliver more than 80,000 meals this year. More than 90 percent of meals are delivered by friendly volunteers, who often stop to talk story with those they visit. Meals are prepared by commercial kitchens or in institutional kitchens at health care facilities, which enables them to provide medically therapeutic meals as well.

Claire emphasizes the need for volunteers and community support, and she encourages anyone who would like to lend a hand, either by volunteering, sharing their expertise or donating, to get in touch at

This column is dedicated to Claire for her dedication to helping others.

Easter is family time, so get the keiki involved in making and decorating these yummy cookies! I prefer to use margarine with no trans fats. Although pure extracts are a bit more expensive than the imitation flavorings, I think they are worth the extra expense, as the flavor is more robust. I also prefer GMO-free canola oil, which is available at health food stores.

These basic cookies can be decorated in a variety of ways: Instead of frosting, you can decorate the cookies before you bake them. Sprinkle on coarse colored sugar, nuts, colored sprinkles or other small candies. You also can make designs on the unbaked cookies by painting them with a mixture of egg yolks beaten with food coloring. The finished cookies will be glossy.

Use powdered sugar (about 3-4 cups), and add flavored extracts such as vanilla, lemon, orange or almond. Frosting can be thinned easily to the desired consistency by adding liquid such as milk, juice or water. For a smooth, glossy finish, warm the icing slightly in the microwave or in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Be sure to stir frequently so that a crust does not form on top. It’s fun to make a different flavor for each color. The icing can be colored using liquid food coloring. When adding color, mix the color into about 1 tablespoon of icing, then blend that into the rest of the icing.

Happy Easter!


* 1/2 cup margarine
* 3/4 cup pure cane sugar
* 1 egg plus 4 egg whites, beaten together slightly
* 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
* 1/4 cup skim milk
* 1/4 cup canola oil (I buy GMO-free canola oil)
* 3 3/4 cups unbleached flour combined with 5 teaspoons baking powder and mixed well

Preheat oven to 350 degrees; coat cookie sheets with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, cream together margarine and sugar until fluffy. Beat in egg mixture and stir to combine. Stir in vanilla extract, milk and oil.

Stir flour-baking powder mixture into the wet mixture until well combined. Chill dough for about half an hour in refrigerator.

With floured hands, roll dough into 1-inch balls, and on a lightly floured surface, roll the balls out into ropes about 4 inches long. Form into pretzel shape and press ends together. Put cookies 1 inch apart onto the prepared cookie sheets and decorate before baking (see above), if desired. Bake for about 10 minutes in the middle of oven, until the bottoms of the cookies are golden brown. If decorating after baking, cool, and dip into icing.

Makes about four dozen.

Approximate Nutrition Information Per Serving (without decorations or icing):

Calories: 130
Fat: 3 grams
Cholesterol: 2 milligrams
Sodium: 85 milligrams

Diana Helfand, author of “Hawaii Light and Healthy” and “The Best of Heart-y Cooking,” has taught nutrition in the Kapiolani Community College culinary arts program. Email