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I'm Dreaming of a Light Christmas -- with Elaine Magee, MPH, RD

WebMD Live Events Transcript; Event Date: Wednesday, December 15, 2004

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MODERATOR: Onion relish or mango pepper jelly is great too, as is Major Grey's chutney.

MAGEE: The key here is light cream cheese and serving it with something higher in fiber and lower in fat, like the crackers we talked about earlier. Even a nice sliced baguette can work; it's bread. If you can find a whole grain baguette, go for it. Even that is pretty good.

MODERATOR: Let's talk about holiday baking.

MEMBER QUESTION: I see a new sweetener advertised that is half Splenda and half sugar. Have you tried it yet? Does it work as well for baking as they say?

MAGEE: Great question. Thanks so much for asking. I created this blend -- ha ha! I've been using half sugar, half Splenda the last year myself. Basically what they've done is to blend it for you and sell it off the shelf that way. So have I tried the actual mixed product? No, because I mix it myself at home. I'll tell you why I prefer to do that, because in many recipes it will call for a cup of white sugar and a cup of brown. If I'm mixing it at home, I substitute it for the granulated (white) sugar, then add the brown sugar myself. I like the freedom of choosing to use it for the white sugar and add the brown sugar myself. Using this type of half Splenda/half white sugar equation tends to work pretty well. My husband tends to know when I've used Splenda, but most people are going to be in the dark that you've used half Splenda. It's just a simple way to cut the sugar calories in half without changing the texture or taste too much.

MEMBER QUESTION: Can you make a direct substitution of the Splenda mix for real sugar, cup for cup? Will the cookies have the same crispy edges and same flavor?

MAGEE: Great question and it is going to depend on the cookie. You may want to do one-third Splenda, two-thirds sugar to start with. You may find better results with that for a higher profile cookie. You're going to have generally better results in a muffin or cake. Cookies tend to be tougher candidates for lightening fat and sugar basically because a big part of a cookie's characteristics are about fat and sugar.

Let me just give you a quick tip about lightening the fat in cookies. A pretty sure-proof way that works is to substitute that low trans margarine with 8 grams of fat per tablespoon -- cup for cup -- for butter or shortening. This is going to lower the fat from 12 grams per tablespoon to 8 grams of fat per tablespoon, basically cutting the fat by one-third. Every time I've done that they've turned out excellent. If I cut a little bit more fat than that, it's less "cookie" and it becomes more like a muffin because you're changing it too much. I tried this, substituting the lower fat margarine recently in a Russian tea cake recipe and it was awesome. I tried it in the thumbprint cookie recipe. Again, awesome. Nobody knew the difference.

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