Holiday Baking with Dr. Laura

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Dr. Laura Trice

Dr. Laura Trice is the head cookie cutter and CEO of Laura's Wholesome Junk Food in Venice, California, ad the author of The Wholesome Junk Food Cookbook, one of Natural Solutions' Top Cookbooks of 2010.

Return to the tradition of home-made baking from scratch and family: Staying healthy during the holidays by baking like grandma used to.  Dr. Laura Trice is one of Natural Solutions’ Top Cookbooks of 2010 authors, and she shares her tips on holiday baking with us below.

There are so many treats that many of us enjoy during the holidays. In my family, it is pumpkin pie, black forest cake, peppernuts (see below for the recipe), ginger cookies, potato candy, stuffed dates and stolen. Every family has their special favorites. Often these have been passed down from grandmother to mother to daughter and so on. What has happened in the past generation is many people got almost too busy to bake and retailers started making the traditional treats we look forward to. So, what naturally happened is that many of us baked less and purchased more. But, how has that impacted the quality of foods we are consuming during the holidays?

The main difference between many commercial bakeries and retailers is that they are not baking with the same ingredients (and love) that grandma did. They are often looking for the least expensive most shelf-stable way to make best selling holiday items. Often, the bottom line is profit not ingredient quality and consumer health and well-being.

So, in addition to getting enough sleep and limiting alcohol and late night eating, really getting back to the basics of holiday baking and cooking from scratch is a great way to stay healthy during the holidays and avoid unnecessary weight gain. Indulge!

For example, pumpkin pie with whipped cream and potato candy are two of my favorite holiday treats. The recipes for these can be found at www.lwjf.net on our blog. What makes these treats more wholesome than their mainstream store bought counterparts are both what they have and don’t have. For example, all our recipes are additive and preservative free.

Is whipped cream okay, you ask? Sure, in moderation. But if you make it from scratch and sweeten with some agave, honey, or maple syrup, it’s that much better for you. I don’t want to see anyone giving up their favorite holiday treats. Instead, read the ingredients and if you see some that are hard to pronounce, don’t buy it. Consider getting out your grandmother’s or mom’s recipes and making them with others. Teach your children, your neighbor or invite a friend over. If you want a quick reference of other wholesome ingredient options, here is a list of great ingredient substitutions. If you still have some questions about substitutions, post your question on our Facebook fan page, I love helping people make wholesome junk food!

The holidays are a time that we set aside to connect with those who are important to us. The pleasure of sharing traditional foods is part of that experience. Don’t say no to the foods you grew up with and love. Just make a few minor changes and celebrate guilt-free.

In joy and good health,

Dr. Laura

PeppernutsThe Wholesome Junk Food Cookbook
This has always been a favorite at Christmas. These are small cookie balls with a light dusting of powdered sugar that have a slightly spicy bite.

Yield: 6 dozen
2 ½ cups sifted spelt or unbleached white flower
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup organic butter, at room temperature
½ cup maple syrup ¼ cup organic cream
½ cup finely chopped, blanched almonds
¼ cup organic powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with wax paper. Sift the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, salt, black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves together in a bowl, set aside.

In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and maple syrup together until light and fluffy. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, alternating with the cream. Mix in the almonds.

Shape the dough into small balls, using mounded teaspoonfuls of dough. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until golden brown. When slightly cool, roll the cookies in powdered sugar.

The peppernuts recipe, along with many other mouth-watering “junk food” recipes, can be found in Dr. Laura’s Wholesome Junk Food Cookbook.