Baking Better

For years, anytime we baked we used either a mix from a box or if we did make it from scratch, we used refined,highly processed sugar and flour. Cakes, cookies, brownies, banana bread – it was always a sinful treat because the ingredients really were harmful to our health. But, how delicious it all tasted!

Now, we’ve definitely transitioned (notice we said “transitioned” – it happened in small steps) far away from boxed mixes and into healthier baked goods. It doesn’t need to be a huge overhaul you suddenly make in your baking. Instead, by adding in or replacing certain ingredients, you can come up with a much healthier treat that still tastes incredible. And now, we actually prefer sweet treats this way – the other stuff just doesn’t take very good anymore. As we start eating better, our taste buds change too!

Here are a few simple tips for beginning to bake better without sacrificing the yummy-ness.

  1. Stop using refined, bleached, white flour. Replace with whole wheat, spelt or any flour that hasn’t been stripped of all nutrient value. Or use half organic white flour and half of a better flour. Try garbanzo bean, coconut, almond and brown rice flours. They are heavier, but retain more nutrients. Try mixing one of those with whole wheat or white.
  2. Use organic eggs or eggs from a farm you know has happy chickens that have free range outdoors. The fresher you can get them, the better. Not only is this so much better for you, but it improves the taste. Your purchase of those happy eggs also supports healthy and humane farming practices. Look for “pastured.” Or try using flax eggs instead.
  3. Use organic ingredients whenever possible. This will help you avoid ingesting pesticides, GM (genetically modified) foods and supports sustainable farming.
  4. Avoid refined sweeteners. Swap refined white sugar for Stevia, pure maple syrup, honey or brown rice syrup.
  5. Sneak in your whole foods. Add nuts, seeds and raisins. Puree banana, squash, beets, pumpkin, beans, even spinach and bake it into your dish. Some of these foods can also help to sweeten.

Have fun with your baking and know that when you start making little changes like these on a regular basis, you’re making a big difference in your health.


Buttercup Squash Chocolate Chip Cookies

Kendall: So I’m still on a pumpkin, chocolate chip kick (check out my post last week for Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Pancakes). There’s something about the fall – I want to bake more, and I love that we have pumpkin, squash and carrots so readily available because they are fabulous in so many ways, but especially perfect in baked yummies. I have a couple pumpkins and a ton of squash from our local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share, so I decided to go with the squash for this one!

This recipe happens to be vegan – no eggs and no dairy.

As always, I try to use minimally refined/processed ingredients, so you’ll find real maple syrup instead of white sugar, and spelt and oat flours instead of white flour. I tried not to make these too sweet, and you may wish to add more maple syrup (just taste the batter!). These came out great – moist and tasty. I didn’t think the squash flavor was very strong (which you might be happy about), but buttercup squash is quite sweet, so I was hoping to taste it more. I also added coconut – why not? Anyway, these were a hit with friends and family, and I had a hard time stopping myself from eating them all. I ended up freezing half for later.

Yield: 4 dozen

1 cup maple syrup

3/4 cup unrefined coconut oil, softened or liquid

2 cups buttercup squash, cooked (also try butternut or pumpkin)

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

4 cups flour (I used 2 cups oat, 2 cups spelt)

1/2 cup raw shredded coconut, unsweetened

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

12 ounces chocolate chips

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  • Cream the maple syrup, coconut oil, squash and vanilla together. Mix until well combined.
  • Mix the flour, coconut, baking soda and cinnamon. Stir the flour mixture into the creamed mixture. Mix until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  • Drop by heaping teaspoons onto an ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for 12 to 15 minutes or until set. Let cookies cool on a rack.