During the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I tend to do a lot of reflecting about how to make the holiday season more meaningful. For me it’s not about following the latest trends in holiday decorating, but more about unpacking the timeworn, often handmade ornaments and decorations. The little wooden angel with just one wing or the cypress crèche on the mantle, and so many more treasures collected over the years are a cherished part of our family’s holiday rituals. For us, it’s not about ski trips or beach getaways but about family gathered around our hearth and sharing food and fellowship around the holiday table. It is certainly not about getting and giving expensive gifts, but it is about the thought and the love put into whatever is given. And, that brings me to the focus of this article – healthy holiday treats to make and share. What better way to let someone know how much you care than to give them something scrumptious (and nutritious) from your own oven?
These super healthy versions of some familiar recipes are perfect to bake and share as gifts or as treats for the family.
This healthy banana bread recipe is made with whole wheat flour and naturally sweetened with honey or maple syrup.
• ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil or vegetable oil
• ½ cup honey or maple syrup
• 2 eggs
• 1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 2 ½ medium or 2 large bananas)
• ¼ cup milk
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• ½ teaspoon salt
• ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1 ¾ cups whole wheat flour
• ½ cup chopped pecans or walnuts. (optional). If you do include nuts be sure to clearly label your bread as containing tree nuts.
First, preheat oven to 325o F and grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan. 2. In a large bowl, beat the oil and honey together with a whisk. Add the eggs and beat well. Then whisk in the mashed bananas and milk. 3. Add baking soda, vanilla, salt and cinnamon, and whisk to blend. Lastly, switch to a big spoon and stir in the flour, just until combined. It should be slightly lumpy. If adding nuts, fold in now. 4. Pour the batter into greased loaf pan and sprinkle lightly with cinnamon. 5. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the loaf pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool an additional 20 minutes before slicing. 6. Store it in the refrigerator for five to seven days, or in the freezer for up to three months or so. Yield: One loaf
These oatmeal cookies are moist, chewy and delicious thanks to the applesauce, honey and raisins. They call for whole wheat flour and contain no sugar.
• 1 ¼ cups quick oats (quick oats give tenderer cookie, while regular rolled oats, will have a heartier consistency.)
• 1 cup whole wheat flour
• 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
• 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
• ½ teaspoon salt
• ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
• 4 tablespoons unsalted butter – melted and cooled
• 1 large egg
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• ½ cup honey
• ¼ cup raisins
• ¼ cup well chopped raw walnuts or pecans (be sure to clearly label your cookies as containing tree nuts)
• Optional: Try mixing in 1/3 cup dark chocolate chips (or for a holiday touch substitute red and green mini M&Ms)
First, in a large bowl, whisk together the oats, flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. 2. In a medium bowl, combine the applesauce, butter, egg, vanilla, and honey. Whisk until blended. 3. Pour the liquid mixture into the flour mixture and stir just until combined. The dough will be wet and sticky. 4. Fold in the raisins, and nuts. 5. Place in the refrigerator and let chill for at least 30 minutes or up to 3 days. 6. When ready to bake, place a rack in the center of your oven and preheat to 350° F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. 7. Remove the dough from the refrigerator (if it is very stiff, allow it to sit out for 5 to 10 minutes). With a cookie scoop or spoon, drop the dough in 1 ½” balls and arrange on the baking sheet, leaving 1”of space around each. With your fingers, gently flatten each cookie to be about ¾” thick. 8. Bake on center rack until the cookies are golden, about 9 to 10 minutes. Place the baking sheet on a wire rack and let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes, then transfer the cookies to the rack to cool completely. Yield: Two dozen cookies
This good-looking cake is just as good for you as it is good-tasting. It brings together all the flavors of the holidays – apples and spice and everything nice. It’s pretty enough to take to a family gathering, or gift it in a cake-saver. Just place a bow on top, and you have a thoughtful gift that will continue to be appreciated long after the holidays are a fond memory.
• ½ cup canola oil
• 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
• ¼ cup unsalted butter, softened
• 1 cup light brown sugar (packed)
• 2 large eggs
• 2 cups peeled and shredded Gala apples (about 3 medium apples)
• 13.5 ounces whole wheat flour (about 3 cups)
• 1 tablespoon baking powder
• 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
• ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
• ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
• 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
• ¾ cup evaporated whole milk
• Baking spray with flour
• 1 cup powdered sugar (4 oz.)
• 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
• 1 ½ to 2 Tbsp. apple cider
• 1/8 teaspoon of salt
First, Preheat oven to 350° F. Place softened butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. 2. With mixer on low speed, add oil. Increase speed to medium, and beat until combined (mixture will not be smooth); scrape down sides of bowl as necessary. 3. Add brown sugar; beat on medium speed until softened and well blended, about 2 minutes. 4. Add eggs and vanilla; beat until well combined, about 1 minute. 5. Add apples; beat on low speed just until blended. 6. Whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and 1 teaspoon of the salt. 7. Add flour mixture and evaporated milk alternately to butter mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture, and beating on low speed after each addition just until combined. 8. Pour batter into a 10-cup Bundt pan coated with baking spray. Bake at 350° F until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. 9. Cool cake in pan on a wire rack 10 minutes. Carefully invert cake onto rack; cool completely. 10. For glaze, stir together powdered sugar, melted butter, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. Stir in 1 ½ tablespoons apple cider until mixture is smooth. If mixture is too thick, stir in ½ tablespoon cider. Drizzle over cake.
Spice up toasted pecans with the flavor of the Southwest. Make these savory treats ahead of time to share during holidays.
• 2 cups pecan halves
• 2 tablespoons coffee liqueur or maple syrup
• 4 teaspoons vegetable oil
• 2 tablespoons sugar
• 2 tablespoons ground ancho chile pepper or other medium-hot ground red chile pepper
First, preheat oven to 250o F. Line a 13x9x2-inch baking pan with foil; set aside. 2. In a medium bowl combine pecan halves, liqueur or maple syrup and oil. Stir in sugar and ground chile pepper. Spread in prepared pan. 3. Bake uncovered for 45 minutes, stirring twice. Spread on a large piece of foil to cool. 4. Store in airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks or freeze for up to 1 month. Yield: 2 ½ cups.