Chef James Masterclass: 5 strategies for making healthier holiday treats

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Written by Chef James

 

Everyone, and I mean everyone, associates the holidays with treats. From chocolate coins and candy canes to pumpkin pie and holiday themed bins of tri-colored popcorn, we’ve been taught to believe that the holidays are a time for gluttony and abandon. Isn’t there a middle ground? Is it possible to have a treat but make it a ‘healthy’ treat? I’d like to share a few principles and a recipe on how you can make your holiday treats more “naked”.

 

Keys to making healthy desserts:

  1. Choose quality ingredients. Despite what Dr. Oz says,quality of ingredients matters. Use eggs from pastured chickens, butter and milk from grass-fed cows. (Have you tried goat’s milk butter before? Quite good!) Look for certified organic, non-GMO ingredients.

    Most importantly, make things from scratch so you can choose whole food ingredients and avoid all the shelf-stabilizers, preservatives and other synthetic ingredients.Check out our Naked Foods & Ingredients Resource Page to find retailers that carry quality ingredients and more!
  2. Use proper fats. Fat is a really important part of a sweet treat. It slows down the sugar spike, which means less of an insulin spike and less fat storage (yes, eating fat helps you avoid gained fat, as counterintuitive as that sounds.) If you’re still using grapeseed and canola oils or – GASP! – shortening, then it’s time to end that relationship. Let 2012 be the year you say “Hit the road, Jack!” to all those foul, rancid, hard-to-digest oils. Use clean, unrefined fats like coconut oil (adds a nice flavor to desserts), ghee, butter, lard, and tallow (yes, just like your grandma used to use). Stay away from those processed, hydrogenated, soy-spreads that have people fooled into thinking they are eating healthy.
  3. Pick natural, unrefined sweeteners such as raw honey, maple syrup, Rapadura, and coconut sugar. Look for sugars that have little to no processing and then use them sparingly. For the most unrefined option possible, use real, whole fruit. Take some fresh or dried fruit, blend it with a little warm water and you now have a natural sweetener. If you’re currently using agave, stop. Read this article for more information on why. If you’re using stevia, beware, most of it is processed and cut with other ingredients. The Body Ecology brand is one of the purest we’ve found.
  4. To gluten or not to gluten… That’s a good question. Baking gluten-free doesn’t have to be a big deal. We’ve got many delicious gluten-free dessert recipes in the Naked Foods Cookbook or you can simply do a search over the Internet. Look for gluten-free recipes that don’t call for fillers such as guar gum, potato starch or other starches. Use whole food flours, like almond flour or sorghum flour. Coconut flour is a good choice as well, but just know that you have to use four to six times more eggs (yes, you read that correctly) to keep it moist. If you are eating gluten, choose organic, unbleached flours and add some nuts to the dessert to slow down the blood sugar spike.  Beware of “flourless” recipes. Most of them just replace the flour with more sugar.
  5. Go raw! Some of the healthiest desserts contain little to no sugar and are raw. Now I’m not necessarily talking about making cookie batter and then eating that raw. I’m talking about raw treats that are filled with 100% real foods and that don’t need heat. Nut balls and seed bars are some of the more popular treats in this category, but you can also take this a lot further and make raw pies, tarts and cakes.

Below is a recipe from the Naked Foods Cookbook for some delicious Raw Chocolate Fudge. Enjoy!

Raw Chocolate Fudge

This fudge recipe is a bake-less, gluten-free, vegan version that isn’t sickly sweet. It uses the food processor and just five basic ingredients.

Makes approximately 70 bite-size squares

Ingredients

1 cup raw, shredded, unsweetened coconut

1 cup almonds, soaked overnight and peeled

½ cup raw cacao powder

¼ teaspoon sea salt

1 cup raw, pitted dates

Directions:

In a food processor, pulverize coconut, almonds, cacao, and sea salt. When fully pulverized, add dates and continue to blend until dates have mixed thoroughly with the other ingredients. As you’re blending it in the food processor, the ingredients will begin to clump and form a solid mass.

Remove the dough from the food processor and put it on a nonstick surface—plastic wrap or parchment paper are both good options. Using your hands or a rolling pin, and a second piece of plastic wrap or parchment paper over the dough, roll out the dough so that it’s approximately ½ inch thick. Remove top parchment paper and cut the dough into ½-squares with a knife.

Enjoy immediately, or freeze squares in a sealed container. If you’re freezing them and need to freeze them in layers, put a piece of parchment paper between each layer so they don’t stick to each other. Frozen, they’ll last up to 1 month.

Like the way these taste?!

 

 

 

Our Naked Foods Cookbook is also available on kindle

And if you find any ways to make these extra special, we’d love to see how you add your twist- share a photo on our Facebook page here.

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