With the holidays approaching, a topic coming up a lot in conversation is ‘Holiday Weight’ – the inevitable addition to ourselves that looms over the season of social gatherings, cocktails, extra workplace treats, gifts of sweets, and plentiful family feasts. I’ve talked a lot through this blog about the importance of wholesome nutrition to aid in maintaining a healthy brain and body, which suddenly becomes a pressing concern when we or our loved ones age. So as we enter the holidays and our friends and family begin to pressure our normally disciplined diets, I like to find sneaky ways to still enjoy the indulgences of the holidays while still providing my body with the nutrition it needs to stay healthy.
Many of our favourite Christmas recipes can be adjusted to include more healthy ingredients, and exclude many of the bad ones. Following is one of my favourite ‘healthy baking’ recipes – the classic Christmas Fruitcake.
Natural Fruit Cake
2 ½ cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
3 cups of chopped unsulfured fruit:
-currants, raisins, dried apricots, dried pineapple chunks, dried ginger pieces, chopped prunes
1 ½ cups slivered almonds
1 cup unsalted butter
½ cup honey
1 large organic lemon
2 tbsp. Scotch whisky (optional)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Scotch or wine for soaking cheesecloth (may be diluted with water)
- In a large bowl, mix flour, baking powder, fruit and nuts. Cream butter with honey, then beat in the eggs one at a time. Pare the lemon and chop up the rind. Squeeze the juice from the lemon and combine with the chopped rind in a saucepan and simmer until the rind is soft. Add the lemon juice and rind, whiskey if using, and vanilla to the butter mixture, then stir into the flour fruit mixture.
- Spoon the cake batter into a greased 9” x 5” loaf pan that has been lined with greased brown paper. Bake at 135°C for at least 2 hours, until the top is lightly browned. Once cooled, remove the brown paper and wrap cake in cheesecloth that has been soaked with whisky or wine. The cloth may be periodically re-soaked as it dries out. The cake should age for at least 2 weeks, and will keep for up to 2 months.
To add an additional boost to your natural ingredients, try these tips (works with almost any baking!):
- Seeds: Add flaxseed, linseed, pumpkin seeds, whatever your favourite seeds!
- Go dark: Always swap white flour, sugar, rice, with the darker option for better nutritional punch.
- Use the right fats: Go for the good stuff. Wherever possible, use extra virgin olive oil as your source of fat. Least desirable is reduced-fat margarine, which can have a host of new ‘bad things’ the make up the flavour. Just use the good stuff, and use less of it.
- Oats: Mix some oats into a flour mix (replace about 1/3 of flour with oats) to increase fiber and energy.
- Sugar alternatives: Replace sugar as much as possible! Use honey, molasses, or syrup to reduce your sugar intake.