Holiday Baking – Which ingredients to choose?

It shouldn’t surprise you that food is an important part of the holidays in my family. While I enjoy celebrating with a family meal as much as anyone else, I also have to careful about what I eat because of my food sensitivities. Since I want to enjoy holiday baking that don’t upset my digestive system or negatively affect my mood, I’ve collected several recipes to ensure I have tasty treats to enjoy and share. I’ll share the research next, but you can skip to the recipes if you want.

There is research showing the connections between gluten sensitivity and anxiety and depression (as well as ADHD, ASD, and schizophrenia). In a summary of the research about gluten and mental health, Jackson et al. (2012) stated that up to 22% of people with Celiac Disease have or will develop some type of mental health issue, and up to 57% of people with mental health issues have anti-bodies associated with gluten sensitivity.

Sugar is known to cause inflammation in the brain as well as disrupt the balance of bacteria in the gut micro-biome. Over time this inflammatory effect can speed up aging of brain tissue in people, and excess sugar was associated with poor memory in animals (Edwards, 2016). To find our more about sugar and mental health, you can read this blog post.

While there isn’t research supporting increases in inflammation or mental health problems with dairy consumption, there is some anecdotal evidence of a relationship and many clients feel better when the reduce their dairy intake.

So, here is my collection of gluten-free, dairy-free and low sugar recipes. Just a note, I tend to reduce the sugar in most recipes by at least a third. I also substitute coconut sugar for cane sugar, or use honey, maple syrup or dates as a sweetener when I can.

 

Savoury Snacks

A Year of Slow Cooking: CrockPot Roasted & Spiced Nuts Recipe –  Your house will smell great as these nuts roast in the crockpot! You can easily substitute your favourite nuts or seeds when you make this recipe. 

 

Christmas Morning Breakfast

Nourishing Meals: Buckwheat Cinnamon Rolls (Gluten-free, Vegan, Yeast-Free) – At our house, Christmas morning means cinnamon buns. I like this recipe which uses sweet potato. I add raisins or dried cranberries to the filling, because I like raisins in my cinnamon buns – but I know that some people feel differently. I’ve substituted pumpkin for the sweet potato and used pumpkin pie spice mix for flavouring, and that worked well too. I’ve never made the frosting. I find them sweet enough without. I’ve also made cinnamon buns using the Gluten Free Bread in 5 Minutes master dough.

 

Holiday Beverages

Crockpot 365: Crockpot Gingerbread Latte – Another crockpot recipe that will make your house smell lovely! This is a great recipe to start before an afternoon outside and then come in to enjoy a warm drink together. I’ve made this recipe with rice milk and it worked fine. I usually start with less sugar, which leaves the option of adding more if it is needed.

Wellness Mama – Apple Cider – I like to add some cranberries or cranberry juice to my cider, but this also delicious with just the apples.

 

Cookies and Holiday Treats

Only Sometimes Clever: Big Batch Gluten-Free Christmas/Sugar Cookie Recipe – This is a very versatile recipe. It makes a base cookie dough that can be adapted to several types of cookies. I like the recipe because I can prepare one big batch of cookies and then divide it to make different flavours: the kids like to decorate the basic sugar cookies; I like to add cranberries, walnuts and orange zest for drop cookies; and it makes great thumbprint cookies with a little jam in the dip.  The dough freezes well so you can save it for a quick batch of cookies later. The recipes calls for a lot of sugar. I cut it back by at least a third. I’ve used coconut sugar in this recipe. It makes the dough a little darker than cane sugar would. 

 
Elana’s Pantry – Tart and Tangy Cranberry bars – I like the tangy cranberry flavour in these bars.  Again, you can adjust the sugar to taste, but I find the date-sweetened base helps to balance the tart cranberry topping.
 
Gluten-free Butter Tart Bars – Butter tarts are a Canadian favourite, but I find gluten-free pie crust is too much work. Instead, I make butter tart squares with the same flavours in an easier bar form. Butter tart squares are sweet since the top layer is mostly sugar. I cut back the sugar and they still taste great.
 
Elana’s Pantry – Raspberry Thumbprint Cookies – I enjoying making these cookies with my kids.  They like making the thumbprints and adding the jam. 
 

Gluten-free Goddess – Gluten-Free Gingersnap Stars – I love anything ginger including ginger snaps. These are a tasty spice cookie, whether you shape them like stars or not.

 

Gluten-free Goddess – Gluten-Free Cranberry Bread – A tart quick bread with cranberries and walnuts. I enjoy a slice with a cup of tea. There are lots of substitution options to make this recipe accessible for everyone.  Here’s another tasty cranberry recipe (Gluten-Free Apple Cake with Cranberries)
 
Gluten-free Goddess – Gluten-free Pumpkin Pie Bread – This recipe has a great pumpkin pie flavour. It is makes a nice breakfast bread for the holidays. I also like this recipe for holiday pumpkin flavour (Gluten-Free Chai Pumpkin Bread with Cranberries)
 

Healthy Beet: Coconut Chocolate Date Bliss Balls – Here’s another tasty dessert with dates. You could easily adapt the recipe for more holiday flavour with cranberries and walnuts. Yum!

Stacy Unruh: No-Bake Mini Pumpkin Pies – When I’m thinking about the busy time around Christmas, I’m always looking for ideas that don’t require the oven. I use the slow cooker when I can so the oven is free, but here’s another option – no-bake desserts.

Fuel Your Intention: Dairy-free Almond Butter Cup – Everyone likes some chocolate around the holidays and these little chocolate almond butter cups look like a delicious treat. I haven’t tried them myself, but they are on my list for this year.  I think I’ll add some chopped roasted almonds for a little more crunch on top.

Eye Candy Popper – Gluten-free Hazelnut Shortbread Cookies – Here’s another recipe I’m adding to my baking list this year. I have some hazelnut flour I’ve been wanting to use and I’m sure the chocolate hazelnut filling will be a hit with the kids.

 
Need more ideas? Here’s a recipe round-up from Silvana Nardone with 20 more gluten-free cookie recipes to try. 

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