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.
I decided to come up with a fun batch this past weekend. I usually make a batch of pancakes that is very simple with just some whole grain flour (like spelt or oats) a banana, some rice milk and a few other things. They are yummy, but not as yummy as this batch.
This weekend I decided to take things a little outside of the Aunt Jamima pancake box (which I don’t think I have ever used in my life) and make some super powered protein pancakes.
Most people don’t think of pancakes as a source of protein. Well that all depends on what you put into it. I have been on this Sun Warrior kick lately (for over a year) since it is my favourite protein powder to use. Along with some high fiber gluten free flours, these pancakes are good for at least a serving or two of your plant based protein for the day. I also added a whole bunch of super foods like mesquite, chia, coconut sugar and then topped them with fresh berries and a homemade cashew cream and date syrup. If this isn’t the perfect way enjoy a meal, then I don’t know what is. They were dense, hearty and had the most unique flavour. You should try them!
There are a whole bunch of ingredients in these pancakes, some of which may be new to you. If you can try to get a hold of some of them at your local health food store for a change.
Mesquite Power Pancakes
½ cup Teff Flour (gluten free, high in protein)
½ cup Buckwheat Flour (gluten free, full of fiber)
½ cup Rolled Oats
1 cup almond or rice milk with 1 tsp apple cider vinegar (makes vegan buttermilk)
1 tablespoon mesquite powder (gives pancakes a malty sweet taste(
1 tablespoon chia powder or ground flax (binds it all together – acts as one egg)
2 tablespoons Sun Warrior Protein (totally optional – but gives them a boost)
1 tablespoon coconut sugar (natural low glycemic sweetener) buy some here!
1 teaspoon cinnamon (balances blood sugar)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
½ cup fresh blueberries (antioxidants)
1 tablespoon coconut oil (energy)
1 tablespoon date syrup or maple syrup (natural sweetness, and PURE fun!)
2 large tablespoon of cashew cream (cashews, almond butter, rice syrup and cinnamon all blended up!)
- mix the dry ingredients
- mix the wet ingredients
- combine the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, mix and let sit for 5 minutes
- warm a hot skillet or pan with some coconut oil
- drop batter onto pan by the ¼ cup full (or bigger) and allow to warm until bubbles come through or one side has browned, flip over (approx 2 minutes per pancake)
This may sound like a challenge, but you can enjoy delicious food this holiday without restricting yourself (or indulging for that matter!). It is not about dieting and sitting across the table wishing you can eat something that you told yourself you couldn’t. It is about taking control. Make the right choices this year, because you can treat your holiday however you want!
Maybe this year, you offer to make some of the side dishes, desserts or goodies. Or at least have something small with you to nibble on that is healthy and tasty. You never want to be left without options that don’t suit your goals or your taste buds! You don’t have to give in to the 4-5 course rich and heavy meals and all the holiday candies, sweets, desserts that may be delivered to our door or are laying on your table. If you have to go for that “once-a-year” something, then treat yourself to a small piece and enjoy every bite. You never want to approach the holidays dreading the amount of food you are going to eat…just approach it with peace and let yourself know that you can still enjoy the holidays without guilt.
Here are a few more helpful tips:
If dinner is not at your house – have a small meal before you go (vegetable juice, smoothie, bowl of soup, veggies and hummus with crackers)
Load up on veggies - if there is a salad or steamed veggies available – double your dose of them and leave only a small space on the plate for other things.
Wait before you have dessert - sip on herbal tea, let your tummy digest dinner before you indulge in dessert. Or better yet bring your own healthy and guilt free dessert – Ginger Date Cookies!
Get to the gym or go for a long walk - you will feel better knowing that you can burn off some of those (extra) calories (even if you did cheat a little!)
Sip on wine if you must – watch the eggnog, beer and other rich holiday drinks. These all have calories that can add up!
Make time for bonding – have after dinner activities that are fun and keep you away from all-night nibbling!
Approaching the holiday dreading the amount of food you’re going to eat is no fun. So take control this year and give yourself the gift of eating good food, in moderation. If you must give in, to that second helping – do it with gratitude and pleasure not with guilt and disappointment. The only one who will be left upset in the end is you!
Date Ginger Coconut Cookies
2 ½ cups spelt, kamut or oat flour
2 cups rolled oats
2 tsp cinnamon, nutmeg or allspice
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 ½ tsp baking soda
1 cup chopped pitted dates (I like Medjool)
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 cup maple syrup or coconut nectar
¾ cup coconut oil
1-2 tsp grated ginger
zest of organic lemon or orange
1 tsp pure vanilla
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Prepare baking sheet with parchment paper
- Whisk together flour, oats, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in large bowl.
- In a separate bowl add in dates and coconut and stir to combine. Add the syrup, oil, ginger and zest and vanilla and mix just until all flour is absorbed.
- Drop heaping tablespoons or large scoops of the dough onto the baking sheets, spacing them out evenly.
- Bake for about 12 minutes, until golden brown.
- Allow to cool on a baking rack for a few minutes and enjoy!
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.