Cookies are among the world’s best-loved foods. Ideally, cookies keep their optimal freshness for about a week. If you have started baking a few weeks before Christmas, freeze your work to maintain quality.

Before baking anything, feed yourself. If your stomach is full, there is less cookie dough munching. The average baker eats 2.5 cookies of raw dough before cookies are baked. As they come out of the oven they must be tasted, that brings the total to 3.5 cookies consumed. Then the broken crumbs must be eaten because they are too good to be thrown away. For each batch of homemade cookies produced, the baker consumes an average of 4.5 cookies. Depending on the type and size of cookie, this could range from 400 to 800 calories. Eat healthy before baking.

Drinking water while baking controls cookie indulgence. Chewing gum is another cookie eating deterrent.

Buy fresh ingredients. The baking soda and baking powder that have been in your cupboard since last year need to be replaced. These ingredients go flat after sitting on your shelf and the best cookies are made with fresh baking soda and new baking powder. Extracts also lose flavor with age. Chocolate chips that have been around more than six months do not go bad but they are not the tastiest. Purchase new ingredients.

Do not trust nuts or coconut to be fresh. These items contain fats that can go rancid and there is nothing worse than a beautiful cookie that tastes bad. Smell and taste before adding to your recipe. Check expiration dates.

Flour should be no more than six months old. Check for signs of insects and rodents. All-purpose flour can be used for cookies.

Cookie cooking times are approximates. Take them out when the edges are brown. The cookies will continue cooking after leaving the oven.

After the cookies are cooled, store them in an airtight container or bag. Add a small piece of bread. The moisture from the bread keeps the cookies chewier. Snickerdoodles and oatmeal cookies always get a piece of bread. Freeze some immediately to keep them fresh.

If mixing up a boxed cake mix, replace the oil with nearly the exact same amount of melted butter. It will improve the flavor and the texture will be lighter and heavenly. To swap oil for butter: ¼ cup of oil = 1/?3 cup melted butter; ½ cup oil = 2/?3 cup melted butter; and ¾ cup oil = 1 cup of melted butter. Use only fresh cake mixes; expired mixes will still work but the quality will not be the same.

I will start baking and freezing cakes and cookies this week. Bake some of your own; even a premixed tube of cookie dough coming out of the oven can make your home smell like a bakery. May Christmas be merry and bright for you and the family.

Bobbie Randall is a Certified Diabetes Educator, Registered, Licensed Dietitian. She supervises a Diabetes Self-Management Training Program at Aultman-Orrville Hospital. Contact her at (330-684-4776).