Decorating Easter Cookies With The Keiki

It's fun to get creative with Easter cookies DIANA HELFAND PHOTO

It’s fun to get creative with Easter cookies

Kakaako resident Arlene Akiyama moved from New York to Hawaii 40 years ago for the warm weather, and she never looked back. She has been the manager at Paul Brown Salon in Kailua for the past eight years, and she especially loves the warm and gracious people she meets there.

She is proud of her son Kawika, who is a surfing and standup paddling instructor with Hawaii Hot Spots Surf School at Hilton Hawaiian Village. When she has free time, she enjoys the beach, and reading suspense and action novels.

This column is dedicated to Arlene, who, with her friendly and caring personality, is a definite asset to Paul Brown Salon.

Easter is family time, so get the keiki involved in making and decorating these yummy cookies!

I prefer to use Smart Balance margarine, as it has no trans fats. Use the regular Smart Balance; the light variety does not cream well with the sugar. Although pure extracts are a bit more expensive than imitation flavorings, I think they are worth the extra expense, as the flavor is more robust.

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 confectioners’ 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 a microwave oven or in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Be sure to stir frequently so that a crust does not form on the 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!

• 3 3/4 cups unbleached flour
• 5 teaspoons baking powder
• 1/2 cup Smart Balance margarine
• 3/4 cup granulated sugar
• 1 egg plus 4 egg whites, slightly beaten together
• 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
• 1/4 cup skim milk
• 1/4 cup canola oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat cookie sheets with cooking spray.

In medium bowl, sift flour with baking powder, set aside.

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 a half hour in refrigerator.

With floured hands, roll dough into 1-inch balls and place cookies 1 inch apart on the sprayed cookie sheets; decorate before baking (see above), if desired. For Easter colors, use a drop of yellow, pink or blue food coloring in the confectioners’ sugar frosting and spread on cookies when cooled.

Bake for about 10 minutes in the center of oven, until the bottoms of the cookies are golden brown.

If decorating after baking, cool cookies and spread on icing, or dip into icing and then into nonpareil sprinkles.

Makes about 4 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