Baking is something that I have always loved to do and it is something I enjoy doing with my kids year round. I spend a lot of time searching out and trying out healthy baked goods made from whole food ingredients. There are endless recipes online for healthy treats but the big challenges I find are cost and time. I try my best to find recipes that I can make with ingredients I already have in my kitchen and that are low cost. I also like to look for things that are easy and quick to make because most of us don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to baking and I want to make it easier to throw together at home so we can enjoy healthy treats whenever we want. The best part about baking with whole foods is that you don’t have that heavy, yucky feeling after you eat a couple extra cookies and you don’t mind if your kids (or you!) end up eating what you baked for lunch, you might even encourage it!
Let’s dig in!
Not really baking but when I’m in a rush and don’t have time to make anything, my go to is always fruit so I thought it was worth mentioning. It’s delicious, healthy and the colours are endless so it’s easy to make a holiday themed fruit platter if you feel like being creative. Check out Pinterest for endless ideas to dress up your fruit (or veggie) platter. I like to buy my own fruit and cut it up myself, this usually way more cost effective than buying an already made fruit platter and you can pick what you would like on your platter. I love to use things that you can get a lot of yield for your dollar such as clementines (peeled and separated), grapes and melon. Even better is that my kids sit and snack on the fruit while I’m cutting it up so I can get a platter made and a healthy snack checked off my list at the same time!
If you are in a rush and don’t mind spending a few extra dollars on a pre made platter from your local grocer, call ahead and ask for a freshly made platter without any preservatives added (you can also make special requests for the types of fruit). In order to preserve freshness and have their product last as long as possible, prepackaged foods often have preservatives added to them. This helps better protect their profit but not so much our health!
A couple of notes about baking ingredients:
One of my favourite ingredients to cook with is rolled oats. These can be added as is to recipes or ground into oat flour (blender works great for this!) Oats are a source of protein, iron and fibre (you can read more here about oats). I find foods made with oats tend to keep you full longer and just seem to be more satisfying than foods made with wheat flour. Rolled oats are inexpensive compared to other non wheat flours and can be purchased as gluten free.
Cooked quinoa is another staple in my kitchen. I often prepare it for a meal or two and use the leftover to bake with. It also freezes nicely, thaws quickly and fresh or frozen both work well in baked goods.
2. Cookies, Cookies, Cookies!!!
I love baking cookies and usually double my batches so I have some to freeze and have for quick snacks, especially on the go. I also like to make my cookies small so they are the perfect size for little hands and also stretch a little further when bringing them to a holiday function.
Here are some of our favourite recipes in my house:
Quinoa Chocolate Chip Cookies – these are a staple in my house since I almost always have cooked quinoa in my fridge (I also freeze it in 1 cup portions so I can make these cookies on very short notice). I like to use Enjoy Life mini chips, they are dairy free and I find the mini chips are perfect if I make the cookies small. I also make these cookies without chocolate chips and just add a few good shakes of cinnamon. They freeze well so I usually make a double batch.
Notes – I have made them with eggs and flax eggs and both work well
Chocolate Chip Cookies – I made these cookies recently and my oldest son tried one and said “Mom! These need to be on your blog! They are so good!” I made these with a gluten free flour blend and made themsmall so I only baked them for about 8 minutes. I like that they contain no eggs and are very easy cookies for kids to help out with and they can lick their fingers, spoons and bowl when done without any worries. It’s a small batch recipe so if you are wanting to have extras you will want to double or triple the batch. I get about 15 cookies per batch.
3. Bars and Squares
Bars and squares always dress up and compliment a goodie platter nicely. Here are a few that we enjoy:
Slow Cooker Quinoa Brownies – these are so moist and the cooked quinoa gives them a nice texture. I blend all of the ingredients in the blender and the batter goes right into a parchment paper lined slow cooker. I don’t make the topping in the link and think they taste great without it (who needs the extra work), but sometimes I sprinkle mini chips on the top to give an extra bit of sweetness. These freeze well (I cut them into squares first).
Crispy Squares – here’s a healthier twist on the traditional rice crispy treats. Melting all of the ingredients on the stove top is a lot of fun for older children! Make sure to let them cool and firm up before cutting them.
4. Mini Muffins
Mini muffins are quick, easy and one batch usually makes enough for a plateful to bring to a party.
Banana muffins are a huge hit at my house and I have two recipes that I like to use:
#1 Banana Oat Muffins
1/2 coconut sugar
2 eggs (or flax eggs)
5 Tablespoons of Coconut Oil (melted)
2 Large Bananas (or 3 medium)
1/2 cup almond milk (any milk will work)
1 cup Rolled Oats (quick oats will also work)
2 cups gluten free flour blend
1 Tbsp Baking Powder
1/2 Tsp Baking soda
1/2 Tsp Salt
1/2 – 1 Tsp Cinnamon
Add-ins – chocolate chips, nuts, blueberries, etc.
Preheat oven to 350 F
Beat first 3 ingredients in a bowl with electric hand mixer (or whisk by hand). In a separate bowl mash bananas with milk, stir in oats. Add to other wet ingredients and mix with an hand mixer (or whisk). Combine dry ingredients, whisk together and add to wet ingredients. Add any add-ins. Scoop into a mini muffin pan.
Bake for 11-14 minutes (tops should be a little bit springy to touch).
#2 Banana Blender Muffins
(adapted from from this recipe)
These are quick and simple but do not rise very much. The yogurt makes them extra moist, so they may be small but they are yummy!
2 Large Bananas (or 3 medium)
1/2 cup almond milk yogurt (plain)
1 Tsp Vanilla
1/3 cup Coconut Palm Sugar
2 1/4 cups Rolled Oats (quick oats will work too)
1 1/2 Tsp Baking Powder
1 Tsp Baking Soda
1/2 Tsp Cinnamon
1/4 Tsp Salt
Add-ins – chocolate chips, nuts, blueberries, etc.
Preheat Oven to 350 F
Add all ingredients into a blender and blend. Mix in your add-ins (I just mix them right in the blender). Scoop into mini muffin pan and bake 11-14 minutes or until set and a little springy in the centre.
Carrot Mini Muffins – these have a nice warmth from the cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger which just tastes like the holidays to me! If you are a juicer you can use carrot pulp to make these or just grate fresh carrots. Almond flour is one of the more expensive baking ingredients I use, I will either buy it on sale or make my own almond milk, dry out the pulp and grind it up and use it as flour.
5. Energy Balls
These are another great treat that you can control the size to make enough easily to satisfy a crowd. They freeze great so it’s easy to make them ahead of time and just grab and go. Kids of all ages enjoy rolling these out but they are also easy for younger kids who are just starting out as kitchen helpers. My kids love to roll a few special balls that are just for themselves 🙂
Here’s a basic recipe that we enjoy. Feel free to add in anything or roll them in anything you like. You can really pump these up with lots of nutrients and they are still loved by everyone young and old! I like adding ground flax, chia and sometimes cacao powder (or you could use cocoa powder) to make them super chocolatey!
I also have a recipe in my Effortless Additions – Oats post that has some really yummy variations of the basic energy ball. Check it out for more ideas!
So there you have it! Here are some of the holiday treats we enjoy making in our home that are made with whole foods and packed with nutrients…but still have a big yum factor! I hope your family enjoys these recipes as much as we do. Most of them we make throughout the year and I freeze for quick on the go snacks that are much healthier than store bought snacks.
p.s. If you are looking for tips or suggestions regarding introducing new foods or meals to your family, please check out my Family Consultation package that I offer. I would love to help your family on their journey!