Here’s how you can over-indulge in all those Christmas goodies

If you’re willing to branch out a bit and try different versions of your favorite goodies, I promise that these 3 delicious recipes won’t let you down.

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If you’re like me this week, in the midst of all the decorating, wrapping and last-minute shopping, you’re also spending a fair amount of time in the kitchen. That’s certainly the case for me. I love baking—especially with family: my kids, my sister, my mom or all of the above. Baking relaxes me in a way I almost can’t explain. Maybe it’s the careful measuring of ingredients. Or maybe it’s simply because I love the heavenly smells that waft from the oven.

But I think the best part might be after all the baking is done, when I get to see other people enjoy my masterpieces. My husband gets mad because he always wants to eat the whole thing, while I only ever want a few bites. Maybe the entire process is indulgent enough for me (plus licking the spoon along the way is pretty filling!).

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One of the reasons I continue to bake a lot, even with the healthy food restrictions I give myself, is because the ingredients I prefer to use fit right into my eating plan. My kids and husband are pretty used to it, but there are other family members who are more resistant—they want the traditional treats, and I get that. But, if you’re willing to branch out a bit and try different versions of your favorite goodies, I promise that you won’t be let down. As my little gift to you, here are some of my healthy baking secrets:

First, I use as little sugar as possible. In my opinion, there are so many great options to swap out this sweet, addictive substance that causes obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and more. When the recipe calls for white sugar, my favorite substitutions are:

Honey
Dates (pitted and food processed), or date sugar
Maple syrup
Pureed fruit, like bananas or applesauce
Molasses

For example, when I see ¾ cup of brown sugar in a recipe, I will use ½ cup of honey or maple syrup and 1 tablespoon of molasses to get a similar flavor.

Sometimes a recipe really needs refined sugar, and in that case, you can just cut back on the amount and reduce the flours as well. Remember to buy sucanat, though, which is brown cane syrup that has retained its nutrients during processing.

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I also use organic butter in my baking, but I alternate with coconut oil and avocado oil. I prefer half and half, so if a recipe calls for ½ cup of butter, I often use ¼ cup of butter and ¼ cup of coconut oil or avocado oil.

And when it comes to eggs, I say keep them! (Unless there’s an egg allergy.) They add a lot of nutritional value and protein to your treats.

I rarely can justify using overly processed and contaminated white flour—there are so many better alternatives that keep sweets easier to digest and just as tasty. So when a recipe calls for white flour, I prefer:

Whole wheat flour

Oats—either in their normal texture or processed into flour. (I use my Vitamix and it takes 30 seconds to create a flour-like texture with oats.)

Nut flours—almond and coconut are relatively easy to find and offer extra protein and healthy fat. I reduce the amount slightly when I’m using nut flours.

Nut butters—any and all nut butters actually make a really good flour alternative.

Legumes—processed into flour

There are plenty more options out there, but these happen to be my favorites. By following these guidelines, you’re holiday indulging will be a lot more guilt-free!

If you don’t want to go this route in your baking, however, I strongly urge you to practice self-discipline by committing to portion control. If you find that difficult, plan on getting in a couple of extra hours of workouts. Then again, since it’s unlikely you’ll have time for those workouts, I strongly recommend you give two of my favorite delicacies a try:

Flourless chocolate chip blondies

Serves: 12

Cooking time:

Difficulty:

Ingredients:

1 (15 ounce) can cannellini beans, rinsed & drained
½ cup of rolled oats
¼ cup of flax meal
3 tbsps of natural almond butter
3 tbsps of virgin coconut oil
½ cup of pure maple syrup
1 tbsp of vanilla extract
½ tsp of sea salt
½ tsp of cinnamon
½ tsp of baking powder
½ cup of dark chocolate chips
¼ cup of mini dark chocolate chips

 

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 8×8 baking dish with coconut oil & set aside. Combine beans, oats, flax meal, almond butter, maple syrup, coconut oil, vanilla, salt, cinnamon, baking powder, and ½ cup of dark chocolate chips in a food processor and pulse until smooth. You may need to use a spatula to scrape the batter down the sides halfway through to ensure an even consistency. Pour into prepared baking dish & spread out evenly with a spatula. Sprinkle mini chocolate chips over the top.

2. Place in the oven and bake 20–25 minutes. They may seem slightly undercooked, but don’t worry—this is part of the fudgy texture. You don’t want to overcook & dry them out. Allow to cool completely before slicing into squares. Enjoy!

Almond Butter Brownies

Serves: 12

Cooking time: 30–35 minutes

Difficulty: easy

Ingredients:

2 large eggs
⅓ cup of raw honey
2 tbsp of coconut sugar
2 tsp of vanilla extract
1 cup of natural creamy style almond butter
6 tbsp of cacao or unsweetened cocoa powder
½ tsp of baking soda
⅛ tsp of sea salt
⅓ cup of dark chocolate chips or chocolate chunks

 

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line an 8×8″ baking dish with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, whip the eggs, sugar, honey and vanilla until thick and pale. Beat in almond butter until well combined and smooth. Stir in cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Fold in chocolate chips/chunks. Spread brownie mixture evenly into prepared pan.

2. Bake for 30–35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack before cutting into squares. Serve with a kiss and hug!

Chocolate velvet pie

Serves: 12–14

Freezing time: 6 hours

Difficulty: easy

Ingredients:

For the crust:

1 ½ cups of pecans
½ cup of pitted dates
½ tsp of cinnamon
2 tbsp of cacao or cocoa powder
1 tsp of vanilla

For the filling:

3 medium ripe bananas
1 ¾ cups of smooth natural peanut or almond butter
1 tbsp of vanilla
2 tbsp of coconut oil
¼ cup of coconut cream
3 tbsp of pure maple syrup or raw honey
⅓ cup of cacao or cocoa powder

For the (optional) topping:

2 tbsp of 60% cacao or higher dark chocolate chips, melted
1 tbsp of mini dark chocolate chips
1–2 tbsp of peanuts or almonds, chopped

 

Method:

1. Lightly grease a 9″ pie dish with coconut oil & set aside. Combine crust ingredients in a food processor and pulse until it reaches an even crumbly dough-like consistency. Pour into prepared pie dish and spread out evenly. Press down firmly with your fingers, making sure to press some of the crust up the edges of the dish and have an even thickness throughout.

2. Rinse and wipe out food processor bowl and blade. Combine filling ingredients in the food processor & pulse until it reaches a smooth, thick, pudding-like texture. Pour over crust and spread out evenly with the back of a spoon or spatula. Drizzle melted chocolate over top of the pie filling. Sprinkle with mini chocolate chips and chopped nuts.

3. Cover pie dish with plastic wrap and place in the freezer to freeze a minimum of 6 hours or overnight. Remove from the freezer and cut into slices. Let sit at room temperature to thaw a bit (about 15 minutes) before serving. Merry Christmas, friends!

Got a question for Cara related to nutrition, wellness, or staying healthy? Please leave it in the comments below and she may consider addressing it in a future installment of Harmonious Health.

Cara Busson-Clark
Cara Busson-Clark
Cara Busson-Clark is a Certified Sports and Clinical Nutritionist and runs Cara Clark Nutrition. Her "non-dieting" approach to health and wellness, attracts a wide range of clients, including Hollywood celebrities. In addition to her passion for helping others live their best lives, her world revolves around her faith and family. She is mother to four daughters, ages one to six and lives in southern California.

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