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Holiday Baking with Kids & Natural Sweeteners

By Suzanne, AKA “Nana”Suze_headshot

Each family has their own unique (and quirky!) traditions when it comes to the holidays. In our family, the kitchen is where we join together and indulge in some fun (and healthy) activities, with all generations present.

Maia and I have always loved baking together. So, when she and her boys were visiting for the lead-up to Thanksgiving, we made 4 pies: apple, pumpkin, banana cream, and pecan. We also whipped some raw cream with maple syrup! The 5-month-old baby had a terrible cold and Maia and her husband were just getting over the same cold. I don’t concern myself with germs because my immune system is pretty robust, and even though I am sometimes around the boys when they have colds, I don’t often catch them.

Well, this time I wasn’t so lucky! We all know that sugar really wreaks havoc on your immune system (see: How to Get Off of the Sugar Seesaw). Professor of evolutionary biology at Harvard University, Dr. Daniel Leiberman, author of The Story of the Human Body,  says, “We don’t have the bodies that are able to cope with those kinds of levels of sugar, and the result is that we get sick.”  Even the natural sugars are too much if you overdo it…which I clearly did! Soon after the kids left, I found myself on the couch, sniffling, sneezing, and aching. (For tips on how to cope, check out 7 Ways to Enjoy a Cold or Flu.)

Since the 1970’s when I gave up eating white sugar and had a miraculous shift in my health, I have never used the bad stuff in my cooking. I use maple syrup or maple sugar for baking and raw honey when I am adding sweetener to something that isn’t baked. The best and healthiest option is to use no concentrated sweeteners and to instead, use fruit to sweeten. Dates and bananas are great options for this. Of course, since I grew up eating desserts on Thanksgiving and Christmas, I still like the tradition of baking beautiful pies, cakes, and cookies. I try to limit it to special occasions and then I have to be very careful not to overindulge!

Well, I indulged a bit too much in all those pies and the whipped cream! I wanted to try them because we had taken some recipes from the New York Times and altered them, using natural sweeteners. Would I have succumbed to the bad cold had I not indulged? Who knows, but it couldn’t have helped!

So even though I am planning to bake cookies for Christmas with my grandsons, I need to watch myself and not get carried away. Lesson learned…again! My grandsons Theo and Felix will help me make these delicious, healthier sand tarts–and I will try to eat just one (or two)!

sand tarts

Nana’s Sand Tarts

Ingredients: 

  • ¼ lb butter
  • ¾ cup of maple sugar (this is my favorite sweetener, perhaps because I am a Vermonter. You can certainly use other natural sweeteners like Rapadura or Sucanet.)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups of flour (you can use part unbleached white and whole wheat pastry or sprouted wheat to make them healthier)
  • ½ tsp celtic sea salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbls water/milk/cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Cream the butter and sugar, then add egg, water/milk/cream and vanilla.
In a separate bowl combine the dry ingredients and add to the wet ingredients.
Mix thoroughly.
Roll the dough into 1/8 inch thickness and cut with cookie cutters.
Decorate with cinnamon, nutmeg, and maple sugar if you like. I also sometimes decorate with raisins and carob chips depending on my grandsons’ tastes.
Bake for 7-10 minutes and cool on a wire rack.

Be well,
Suzanne's signature


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