Originally featured in Chatelaine
These cold, dark evenings at this time of year seem to coax out everyone’s sweet tooth. There is just something about the winter months makes us want to load up on sweet foods, but that doesn’t mean we need to load up on empty calories!
With Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and holiday parties fast approaching, we all need to make an extra effort to stay in control not to overindulge. Holiday treats are exciting to serve, fun to make, and make us feel happy. However, they aren’t always healthy. This doesn’t mean that I’m telling you not to enjoy them, but there is no reason to give your body desserts that have no nutritional value, when you can benefit from every bite by making your own desserts with natural ingredients that don’t compromise on taste or your figure!
Most holiday desserts – including cakes, cookies, and pies – are full of:
- Hydrogenated oils and saturated fats – These are used to keep most desserts and pastries on the shelf longer (they stick to your hips longer too) and are loaded with dense fats that can cause blockages in your heart and arteries.
- Refined sugars – These can be anything from white powered sugar to table sugar or even brown sugar. Other than being overly sweet and full of empty calories that accumulate on your waistline, they are often used to make your crave more than one piece of pie or more than one cookie.
- Processed white flour – This is often used to make cakes fluffy, light, and airy but give your body no nutritional value aside from starches which equal excess calories.
Choose these wholesome ingredients to make your cakes, cookies, squares, and pies:
- Coconut oil and grapseed oil – These are pure natural oils that can be heated to high temperatures without denaturing their precious fats. They work great in a variety of recipes and are good for you too. For example, coconut oil promotes health and offers a host of nutrients that benefit our skin, hair, nails, and the organs. See here for more info.
- Sucanat, maple syrup, and dried fruit – These wholesome sweeteners can be used instead of sugar in any dessert recipe. Sucanat is dark and rich and a great substitute for brown sugar, especially for gingerbread and date squares. Maple syrup gives a nice smooth sweetness to cookies and cakes and dried fruit is a great natural way to add sweetness without sugar.
- Spelt, kamut, or oat flour – All of these are great substitutes for both white and wheat flour. They are high in fiber, protein, and vitamins and can be substituted one-for-one in any baked recipe that calls for white flour. You can even use unbleached light spelt flour, which is like all-purpose flour and works great for squares, fluffy cakes, and loafs.
To learn how to bake some delicious and guild free desserts, join one of my dessert classes!
Orange Apricot Fig-Date Squares
1 cup chopped apricots, or dates
1 cup chopped dried figs
Juice of 1 orange
½ cup water
½ cup coconut butter
½ cup sucanat, coconut or maple sugar
1 ¾ cup light spelt flour
½ tsp baking soda
1 cup rolled oats
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- Combine dates, orange juice, and water in a saucepan. Cook, covered, on low heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and set aside.
- In a bowl, cream together the coconut oil and “sugar”. Stir in the flour, salt, and baking soda. Add the oats and mix using your hands. The dough will be crumbly but will hold together when squeezed.
- Press 2/3 of the dough onto an oiled 8 or 9-inch square baking pan. Stir the date mixture and spread it over the dough. Crumble the remaining dough on top.
- Bake for 30 minutes. Cool in the pan and cut into squares.
Marni’s Delicious Knowledge:
People don’t usually know that both figs and apricots are great sources of iron. But make
sure that you buy apricots that are dark brown and not bright orange (due to sulphites).
The rich and decadent taste of dark turkish apricots makes this recipe come to life! Also opt to use coconut sugar for a low glycemic option.
What better way to transition into the fall season than with some Apricot Amaranth Muffins? Everyone needs a new muffin recipe when the fall season comes around. The cool breeze, the changing leaves, it is such a wonderful time to get into some warming fall recipes. ( I know it still maybe a little early – but I am getting ready anyways!)
There is something about apricots and that fall that seem to go so well together. A little note on apricots. Make sure you are buying dark Turkish apricots, meaning they should look fairly brown as opposed to bright orange. The orange ones that you typically find in most grocery and bulk food stores are that colour because of preservative called sulphur dioxide. These little guys can get into our system and cause a whole host of health issues from headaches to stomach cramps. So if you can avoid sulfites and this is very easy, especially if you just stick to a whole foods diet, as most sulfites are found in things that are packaged and processed!
Apricots can be a wonderful ingredient to add into a whole bunch of recipes (especially in the fall). Whether you are making muffins, granola, a cake or pie – just chop them up and throw them in. They will not only naturally sweeten you baked goody, but they also add a great chewy texture. Apricots are also great in trail mixes. So if you have never seen or purchase dark brown apricots…I encourage you to go out and find them and use them in this extremely simple and delicious gluten free recipe!!
Apricot Amaranth Muffins
1 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup amaranth flour
1 teaspoon each baking soda/baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup puffed amaranth
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup rice milk
1-2 cups chopped apricots, soaked (I actually heated them up with some water and mixed them with some apple butter and lemon juice)
Mix all the dry ingredients in bowl.
Mix the wet ingredients in another bowl.
Mix the two together and stir in the chopped apricots.
Divide into 8 – 12 muffin cups and bake on 350F for 20 minutes.
Golden Morning Granola
4 cups rolled oats
¼ cup coconut or canola oil
¾ cup pure organic maple syrup
1 tbsp rice milk
1 ½ cup oat bran or quinoa flakes
¾ cups sesame seeds
½ cup sunflower seeds
½ cup pumpkin seeds
1 cup coconut flakes
¼ cup flax seeds
1 cup of chopped almonds
1 tsp sea salt
1 ½ cups raisin, apricots or cranberries
- Combine maple syrup, rice milk and coconut oil in a large saucepan and set aside.
- Mix remaining ingredients in a large bowl, except raisins, and toss well.
- Add the oil maple mixture and stir together really well.
- Pour mixture into shallow pan or baking sheet with parchment paper and bake for 15 minutes, stir and bake for an additional 10 minutes.
- Remove from oven and stir in raisins.
- Cool and store in air tight container.
- Serve in ½ cup portions and serve with rice or almond milk, or add into a cup of yogurt.