Seasonal Decadence: 3 Healthy Holiday Desserts

Who said that decadent desserts can’t be good for you? Truth is, when desserts are made with ingredients that slow down the digestive process, offer nutritional benefits, and are enjoyed in moderation, they can be nutritiously enjoyable.  The holidays are upon us with the delightful scents of mouth-watering goodies—such as cakes, pies, and pastries—that are beginning to fill the air. The good news is that some sweets not only taste delicious; they can also be full of ingredients with nutritional value, too. It’s all in knowing the best ingredients for these occasional indulgences. Enjoy these three recipes, made with foods like coconut, nuts, seeds, and fruit.

Pumpkin Coconut Pecan Fudge

Pumpkin, with a high concentration of carotenoids and many health benefits, and coconut oil, with heart-protective and enhanced-metabolic characteristics, are nutritious ingredients for this simple recipe. Grade B organic maple syrup offers a darker, richer, and less-sweet flavor than its grade A cousin. It’s important to note: When shopping for this sweet addition, select only organic maple syrup, as non-organic brands may use formaldehyde and other chemicals according to Rebecca Katz’s book One Bite at a Time: Nourishing Recipes for Cancer Survivors and Their Friends. Finally, pecans offer high levels of antioxidants that may contribute to heart health. These collective attributes make this party-favorite fudge not only delicious, but more nutritious, too.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/3 cup coconut butter
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup grade B organic maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 cup of toasted pecans, chopped
  • 1/2 cup toasted coconut flakes

Directions:

Line an 8-by-8 inch pan with parchment paper. Set aside.

Combine the pumpkin, coconut butter, coconut oil, vanilla, maple syrup, pumpkin pie spice, and salt in a food processor and puree until smooth.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Sprinkle with toasted coconut flakes and pecans. Place the pan in the refrigerator for 1 hour, or until firm.

Slice into squares and serve. Store in the fridge for up to 10 days.

Serves 6

Sesame Anise Cookies

Sesame seeds are incredibly rich in many bone-supporting nutrients—such as calcium, magnesium and phosphorous, according to the Worlds Healthiest Foodsand offer a delicate and nutty flavor. Their crunch and mild sweetness can turn into a delicious holiday cookie that is full of flavor and with a host health benefits to boot.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup sesame seeds, divided
  • 1 teaspoon anise seeds
  • 1 1/4 cups gluten-free flour mix
  • 1/2 cup grade B organic maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 egg whites
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of sea salt

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk 2 tablespoons of the sesame seeds, anise seeds, flour mix, sugar, and baking powder in a medium bowl. Reserve the remaining 4 tablespoons of sesame seeds on a small plate and set aside.

Whisk together the egg white, oil, vanilla, and salt in separate bowl. Pour the wet mixture into the dry and stir together until the dry ingredients are moistened. The dough should be moist but not too sticky. If it appears too sticky, place the dough in the refrigerator for 5 to 10 minutes until it is firm enough to handle.

To form cookies: Use a tablespoon to scoop the dough. Roll each piece into a log shape, about 2 inches long and 1 inch wide. Roll each log in the reserved sesame seeds to cover entirely.

Lay the cookies on the prepared sheet and bake until golden and slightly firm to the touch—about 15 to 20 minutes. Cool and serve, or store, covered, at room temperature for up to 1 week. Freeze up to 1 month.

Serves 10 to 12

Cinnamon-Dusted Cacao “Truffles”

For dark chocolate lovers, this rich ball of goodness is enough to satiate the sweet tooth while gaining a few health benefits. The cashews and raw chocolate (cacao) are a match made in heaven in more ways than one. Cacao powder is derived directly from the cacao bean and differs from cocoa powder because is not treated with high heat—this helps to preserve the nutrients that are typically lost during the roasting process. Cacao powder has beneficial antioxidants called flavonols, can improve cognitive function, and is rich in nutrients like magnesium—which is involved in more than 300 essential metabolic reactions.  Dates not only adds a wonderful flavor and texture; they are also packed with an abundance of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Finally, adding cinnamon to this marvelous mix helps stimulate insulin activity, and thus helps the body process sugars more efficiently according to Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup raw cacao powder
  • 3/4 cups cashews, soaked for an hour
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 6 Medjool dates, pits removed
  • 1/4 cup of cinnamon for dusting

Directions:

Add all ingredients into a high-speed blender or food processer (except the cinnamon). Blend approximately 2 minutes until a dough-like consistency forms.

Place in freezer 1 hour to firm.

Remove from freezer and scoop dough with a tablespoon to form into round balls, then roll in cinnamon for a nice topping finish.

Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

Serves approximately 20 to 25 (one each)

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About the Author

Fran Benedict

Health and Nutrition Counselor
Fran Benedict is a certified health and nutrition counselor and the founder of SimplyMindful.com . She has been on a path of health promotion and behavior for more than 15 years and loves discovering new ways to bring attention and intention into everyday life. She believes in the extraordinary power of the mind to create a quality of life every person deserves, with an emphasis on the relation to oneself as the foundation for everything else. A member of American Association of Drugless Practitioners, Fran enjoys supporting a range of health-promotion initiatives from multi-week wellness programs in the corporate setting, to nutritional...Read more