Happy Solstice! I'm so excited for the return to the light, to longer days of more sunshine and the return of vibrant growth starting sooner that it seems. It's holiday season, and along with that comes eating diversions. These can be tasty and satisfying at the time, but can wreak havoc on our digestion, immune system, skin, and mood, along with every other part of our body. I'm sure you already have heard lots of frightening facts about sugar, so I won't try to scare you with more. Instead I want to encourage you toward self-care during this season so you can feel your best. Instead of encouraging you to deprive yourself of sweet things, making you more likely to just binge later, let's look at some alternatives.
How can you substitute tasty healthy treats for sugary treats? Think about substituting more natural sweeteners that don't spike your blood sugar. Try subbing maple syrup for sugar at a one to one ratio. You'll have to adapt your recipe a bit, to account for changing a solid to a liquid, but there's so many great recipes online these days. You could also try stevia, which doesn't raise your blood sugar at all. Make sure you use the green herb and not the white processed stevia. However, the taste may need to be acquired for some people and some never like it. Coconut sugar or molasses are other options, though eating a lot of these or maple syrup can still raise your blood sugar, so moderation is key. Here's a good article to check out about alternative sweeteners. You can also lower your fruit consumption and switch over to fruits that don't raise the blood sugar as much, like berries, pears, and apples.
Here's my holiday gift to you, a gluten-free, dairy-free, processed sugar-free, yet scrumptious recipe to satisfy your sweet tooth and, in moderation, provide a healthy alternative to those other sugary holiday downfalls.
* A few notes about the recipe *
Any wild nut will do, or store-bought nuts, too. I prefer the cacao over the cocoa powder. I think it tastes more chocolatey and has more antioxidants. Cocoa powder is a fine, inexpensive substitute, just try to stay away from the dutched cocoa powder. The dutching process supposedly reduces the antioxidants. (Check out a study here.) My professional baker friend said she doesn't like the Bob's Red Mill gluten free flour because it tends to make the end product grainy in texture. She recommended using coconut flour instead. I haven't had a chance to try that yet, but I didn't notice the grainy-ness anyway.
Banana Cacao Foraged Nut Bread Recipe
(In the large bowl)
2 cups mashed bananas
1 tablespoon vanilla extract (preferably homemade, look for a recipe here soon)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (recipe to make your own)
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
2/3 cup maple syrup
1/4 - 1/2 cup nuts of choice, coarsely chopped (I mix hickory and black walnuts)
(In the small bowl)
1 3/4 cup flour (I used 1 cup gluten free [add your favorite brand] and 3/4 cup rice flour)
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup cocoa powder or cacao nibs powdered (you can powder them in a coffee grinder)
Preheat oven to 350 (or 375 in higher altitudes). Mix the ingredients in the large bowl. Mix the ingredients in the small bowl. Mix the small bowl ingredients into the large bowl ingredients, stirring as little as possible, just until mixed together. Pour into a greased loaf pan or 7 x 11" baking dish. Bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick or fork comes out clean, after poked into the bread. Let cool for 10 minutes before slicing. Enjoy!
Adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie's Chocolate Banana Bread
Wishing you the happiest, brightest love and joy-filled season!
Let me know how this recipe worked for you in the comments. Do you have other yummy healthy recipes you like this season? Post them below.
Founder of the WANDER (Wild Artemisia Nature Discovery, Empowerment, and Reconnection) School, Botanist, Herbalist, & Professional Forager, Abby Artemisia, lives in rural Appalachian North Carolina. She learned about plants playing in the Midwestern woods of Ohio, working on organic farms, an herbal apprenticeship, a bachelor's degree in Botany from Miami University, and running her own tea business. She teaches about plant identification, native plants, and working with plants for food and medicine throughout the country. Her mission is offering nature and herbal education to create healing through connection with the natural world and each other. She is the author of The Forager's Wild Edible and Herbal Plant Cards and The Herbal Handbook for Homesteaders. She is the host of the podcast Wander, Forage, and Wildcraft, founder of The WANDER School, and co-founder of The Sassafras School of Appalachian Plantcraft.