Upgrade Your Baking Pantry & a Healthy Holiday Recipe Roundup
I was talking to a health coaching client the other day, and we both agreed that just because it was the holiday season, does not mean we should throw caution to the wind and "eat all the sugar." We want to indulge and enjoy (especially during this time of year), but there is a way to do it (and certain ingredients you can use) to maintain balance, even add a little nutrition, while avoiding the crashes and cravings that come with overeating the sweet stuff.
I've had so much fun in the kitchen over the past couple of weeks, creating low sugar sweet treats to both eat and share:
- Feel Good Grain-free Gingerbread Men
- Hazelnut Chocolate Truffles (i.e. healthified Ferrero Rochers)
- White Chocolate Goji Berry Bark
- Paleo Figgy Pudding (a real thing!)
- Date Caramel Cheesecake Bites
As you can see, I have a sweet tooth like anyone else, but over the years (and it doesn't take long), my tastebuds have adapted and changed to love and savor the upgraded ingredients I bake with. With a few staples, you will be able to make simple substitutions to any recipe, while increasing the nutritional benefits to boot! Here are the items in my pantry:
- Sweeteners: I primarily use coconut sugar and coconut nectar. The former can replace your white and brown sugars, while the nectar is a liquid (think instead of honey, maple syrup, etc). Coconut sweeteners are not only lower on the glycemic index, but also consist of vitamins and minerals. Other great liquid sweeteners include honey, maple syrup, yacon syrup, brown rice syrup, blackstrap molasses and even mashed banana.
- Flours: Bob's Red Mill Paleo Flour has become my new favorite flour to bake with, and I sub it in recipes 1:1. Almond and coconut flours are also my grain-free go-to's. I've also made muffins with hazelnut meal. I mostly keep my baked goods gluten-free, and there are many options to choose from: brown rice, buckwheat, chickpea, amaranth, teff, quinoa, and ground oat flour. If gluten-free isn't something you worry about, I highly suggest baking with spelt flour. It's an ancient grain chock full of nutrition and more easily digestible.
- Fats: I love baking with coconut oil and ghee. If you can tolerate dairy, grass-fed butter is a high-quality, nutritious ingredient (containing B vitamins and butyric acid, a short-chain fatty acid which is anti-inflammatory and good for the gut). Nut butters of any kind are always great to hand on hand (for so many reasons). If you ever want to cut down on the oil used in a recipe, try subbing a bit of unsweetened applesauce or canned pumpkin.
- Milks: I only ever use full-fat coconut milk (in the can) or homemade nut milks (cashew being my favorite).
- Other: Chia seeds and ground flax are also great additions to baked goods. They add a source of omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, protein, and a host of vitamins and minerals. 1 tablespoon of either mixed with 3 tablespoons of water equal one egg, if you are needing egg-free. I've recently started experimenting with gelatin and loving it so far (such as in my pumpkin pie). Lastly, upgrade to a high-quality pink Himalayan sea salt and make sure your spice cabinet is well stocked! Spices are necessary when it comes to flavor. Those I use most often in baked goods are cinnamon, cardamom, allspice, nutmeg, pumpkin pie spice, cloves and vanilla.