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The following is part of an Organic Living Journey Guest Post Series now written by Mariana who has a mother’s heart and scientist’s brain.
The holiday season is officially here! With a slew of parties, cookie swaps, open houses, and family get-togethers on the calendar, there is lots of cooking to be done. We’ve spent the past few weeks discussing natural sugar alternatives and looking at a few of their benefits and drawbacks. Today, we’re going to try a few dessert recipes using these sugar substitutes. These recipes are not intended to be “healthy” (there are some great ones out there, though!), but they do omit all refined sugar, giving these recipes a lower glycemic load than their refined-sugar counterparts. I’ve tested these all in my little kitchen, and I hope you enjoy them!
Double Oat Crispy Cookies
These oatmeal cookies are light and crispy with a granola-type flavor. By using 100% oat flour and oats, omitting all wheat flour, these cookies also happen to be gluten free! For a dairy-free substitution, coconut oil works wonderfully!
2 cups rolled oats (for oat flour)
2 cups rolled oats (for cookie dough)
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
1 stick of butter, softened or slightly melty
1 cup coconut sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup mix-ins (raisins, chocolate chips, nuts, coconut…your choice)
Preheat oven to 350º F. In a blender or food processor, turn 2 cups of oats into oat flour by processing for about 3 minutes. Add in the baking powder, salt, and spices. Blend a little bit more. In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and the sugar for 3-5 minutes on medium speed until creamy. Add in the egg and vanilla. Mix to combine. Slowly add in the flour blend until incorporated. Stir in the mix-ins and the oats. Scoop 1.5 tablespoon mounds onto parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake 10 minutes. Remove and let cool about 3 minutes on cookie sheet before moving to a cooling rack.
Pumpkin Spice Natilla (Pudding)
The DIY Pumpkin Spice Latte post was so well received, I thought you might enjoy another pumpkin spice treat. Natilla is a traditional Spanish custard, and it holds a special place in my heart. My great aunt Isabel used to make it for every holiday get together. It’s rich and creamy and usually just spiced with cinnamon. This simple recipe takes a basic vanilla custard and gives it a hint of the holidays with a pumpkin spice addition! Never made a homemade pudding? Get ready to fall in love! Homemade pudding is easy to make and tastes a bazillion times better than the boxed mix. Enjoy!
3.5 cups whole milk
one large strip of lemon or lime zest
1 cinnamon stick
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup coconut sugar or sucanat (evaporated cane juice)
8 egg yolks
¼ cup non-gmo cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice mix (recipe below)
4 oz. pumpkin puree
In a saucepan, combine milk, zest, and cinnamon stick. Heat to a simmer. Remove from heat. In a mixing bowl, beat yolks until light yellow (it takes a few minutes). Dissolve cornstarch in 2-4 tablespoons warm water and mix until smooth to form a slurry. Mix the slurry into the yolks until fully incorporated. Mix in pumpkin puree and spices. Slowly add about 1 ½ cups of the warm milk and blend. This step tempers the eggs so they don’t cook. Now transfer everything back to the saucepan and cook over medium heat until thickened, about 15 minutes. Remove cinnamon stick and zest. Transfer custard to a large dish and refrigerate. When serving, garnish with extra spices. Keeps about 3 days.
Pumpkin Pie Spice Recipe: 2 teaspoons cinnamon, ½ teaspoon nutmeg, ½ teaspoon ground ginger, ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
Easy Sugar-free Almond Cookies
Ok. I lied. Here is one healthy dessert! Looking for a guilt-free treat? These almond flour cookies are low-carb and sugar free! Almond flour has a natural sweetness and doesn’t need a lot of sugar to create flavor, a perfect place for using stevia or xylitol. I’ve made these plain or with fun mix-ins. I’ve even made them savory by adding cheese and garlic and omitting the extracts. They are a great, quick recipe to have in your recipe box. They also happen to be gluten free. No electric mixers. No stovetop cooking. Just mix and bake.
1 cup almond flour
1 tablespoon coconut oil, softened (or butter)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons xylitol or erythritol; OR Stevia to taste
½ cup sliced or slivered almonds
Preheat oven to 350º F. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Drop a pinch of sliced or slivered almonds onto cookie sheet. Place about 1 tablespoon heap of dough on top of almonds. Space cookies about 2” apart. Bake 10-12 minutes until they just begin to brown. Let cool for a couple minutes on the cookie sheet before transferring to a plate.
Indulgent Organic Cookie Bars
I love this quick recipe because I can mix it right in the pan and keep my kitchen just a little bit cleaner, which feels like a whole lot cleaner in the busy holiday baking season. This is basically a “dump” recipe. Create your cookie base and dump in whatever you feel like adding!
8 ounces organic butter or coconut oil
¾ cup organic sugar or sucanat
¼ cup organic maple syrup
1 free-range egg
1 teaspoon organic vanilla extract
¾ cup organic whole grain flour
½ teaspoon salt
1.5 cups of “stuff” – chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, pecans, almonds, walnuts, dried fruit, unsweetened coconut
Optional: melted chocolate and fresh toffee for drizzling
Preheat oven to 325º F. In an 8×8” baking pan, add 1 stick butter or 8 ounces coconut oil. Place in oven until melted. Remove. Add sugar and maple syrup and stir until evenly blended. (A flat-bottom whisk is perfect for this task.) Add egg and vanilla extract. Mix until smooth. Add flour and salt. Mix. Add half of your “stuff”. Mix. Now spread it out evenly and top with the other half of your “stuff” making sure that chocolate and butterscotch chips land on the top so they can melt over everything else. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove and let cool. Transfer to a cutting board and cut, removing crusty edges if you want. Optional: lightly drizzle with melted chocolate (chocolate chips + a dab of coconut oil) and toffee (equal parts butter and sugar cooked slowly to 280º F).
Holiday treats come around just once a year. Is it really that big of a deal if they’re organic or not? My short answer is: yes. Here’s why:
-It’s just once a year. Why not choose organic for these special occasions? The extra cost will be a difference of just a few dollars.
-When we talk about organic vs. conventional sugar, we’re talking about more than just toxic vs. non-toxic (which is still a pretty big deal on its own). We’re talking about a significant difference in glycemic load – how much sugar hits your bloodstream. A spike in blood sugar leads to inflammation and hormone response. Elevated blood sugar levels over time lead to some serious diseases. By choosing organic sugar, you’re cutting sugar’s glycemic index almost in half. Coconut sugar has an even lower GI. One simple choice can have an immediate impact on your health.
-Taste. An unrefined sugar substitute like sucanat or coconut sugar adds ton of extra flavor that you didn’t know you were missing! These more natural sugars will actually taste better than white sugar.
Where’s the Chocolate??
You may have noticed that these recipes aren’t very chocolate-heavy. If you’re a chocoholic (and trust me, you’re not the only one), take heart. Next week we will be talking all about chocolate! What’s the difference between conventional chocolate and organic chocolate? Is it worth the extra cost? Is it any better for you? Should it be on your priority list? We’ll find out next week!
For now, enjoy your holiday and happy baking (and shopping)!