While my Holiday spirit has waned a bit with this 80 degree weather we’re experiencing in Cali, the thought of baking and decorating cookies with Jordan (my 3-year old, eager helper) paired with a little “Last Christmas” by Wham! is keeping me on track.
My preparations are now underway to heat it up in the kitchen later in the week once the temp falls, so I thought it would be the perfect time to share my top tips for clean holiday baking. For those of you who thought eating clean would mean missing out on your favorite goodies and holiday traditions, think again.
So here goes — my Top 10 products and tips that meet my stringent and overriding criteria: clean. easy. delicious.
First, lets start with the staples to stock up on that can be exchanged for allergy-unfriendly ingredients in just about in any recipe.
1. Lankato Sugar. When I discovered this through a mother of a child with Autism, I knew my sweet tooth dreams had been answered. It is the closest natural sweetener to sugar EVER in terms of its taste and its versatility … but NOT in terms of the risks it poses to your health. Zero calories, zero glycemic index AND zero additives. But, best of all it has the flavor and texture of real turbinado sugar. None of the bitter taste you get from Stevia. Admittedly pricey, but worth every penny. You can read more and purchase here. The only retail store I’ve seen it at is Erewhon next to The Grove in Los Angeles.
2. Sorghum Flour. Found at most natural food stores with all the other baking flours. I’ve had success substituting this straight across whenever any type of wheat or other gluten-containing flour is called for in baking. Provides a great texture and lift.
3. Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks.Full disclosure – it contains soy, which I’m lucky enough to tolerate in small amounts (although I avoid as much as possible,especially when its not organic). However, they work JUST like regular butter sticks — complete with those little TBSP markers and other helpful metrics which I can never keep straight.
4. Nut, Hemp, Coconut or Rice Milk. Perfect 1:1 substitutes whenever regular milk is called for. I rarely stray from my trusted non-sweetened vanilla almond milk but I’m going to start venturing out with hemp and coconut milk for added protein and nutrients. I’ve found rice milk to have a more watery consistency, but in the small amounts usually called for in baking I’m sure it would work fine.
5. Gluten-Free Oats. While oats themselves are gluten-free, they are typically processed alongside wheat, precluding them from being labeled gluten-free because of the cross-contamination. However, there are now vendors who are getting oats processed alone so that they are officially gluten-free. Again, can be found at any natural food store. Should be either with regular oats or in a special gluten-free section.
6. Allergen-Free Chocolate Chips. Enjoy Life Foods makes a dairy, gluten, corn, egg, soy and nut-free chocolate chip. Perfect for fudge, brownies or cookies. A staple to keep on hand all year.
7. Natural Expeller-Pressed Safflower Oil. This is my oil of choice whenever a baking recipe calls for vegetable oil. Besides having a great flavor, it contains the highest source of polyunsaturated fats than any other type of vegetable oil and contains other essential nutrients such as omega-6 fatty acids and Vitamin E. The “expeller-pressed” refers to being natural processed vs. being chemically processed and depleting its nutrient content.
8. Organic Maple Syrup. A tasty natural sweetener that is commonly called for in the recipe book I detail below. Also great to have on hand for gluten-free pancakes and waffles.
And for those of you that are not so creatively inclined in adapting existing recipes….
9. “Simple Treats” Recipe Book by Ellen Abraham. In all honesty – I haven’t done a recent, exhaustive search on baking recipe books. However, I found this early on in my clean crusade and have tried many of these recipes and not-a-one has let me down, so I haven’t found the need to purchase another. All recipes are wheat & dairy-free and very straightforward. The most complex it gets is putting your oats in a food processor to prepare a flour consistency. But even with that step, I can still bust out the mixes in under 15 minutes. And as ironic as it is, this founder of a food company is not a natural whiz in the kitchen. My favorites include the Almond Butter and Chocolate Walnut Brownie Cookies. My only note is to use the Lankato Sugar and Sorghum Flour to substitute the sugar and Barley flour, respectively. I found it on Amazon.
10. Clean Baking Mixes. Lets face it, with all the chaos of the holiday season (or any season for that matter), time seems to dwindle away from us all. Sometimes a short cut is just necessary. In a crunch, I default to my fave line of baking mixes– Cherrybrook Farms. I’ve used various flavors of cake and frosting mixes and have been able to fool the biggest gluten-free skeptics with the taste and texture. All the mixes I’ve used are wheat, dairy, soy and corn-free (just picked up the Sugar Cookie mix last week) and can be kept clean by using your nut or hemp milk and vegan buttery sticks for the required milk and margarine additions. Some mixes do contain sugar (ironically, the “sugar cookies” don’t) but relative to the other gluten-free mixes available [not mentioning any national brand names that have tried to capitalize on the gluten-free market, but produce allergen and preservative laden crap] this is still a great option. They also have a pre-mixed frosting now – a good time saver, but noticed that it contains cornstarch and corn syrup (the mix does not). I’ll let you weigh the cost-benefit on that one depending on your specific situation.
Wishing you all a sweet, delectable holiday season!
p.s. Please share your tips and ideas for other clean baking ideas – just post a comment below to share with us all.