Sugar and the Holidays

As December approaches, we look forward to family traditions and baking familiar favorites passed down through the generations. As a child, Christmas was the one time each year when my mother pulled out yellowed cards from her recipe box and transformed butter, flour, and sugar into dozens of irresistible treats. Best were snowballs, better known as Russian Tea Cookies. I loved the way I could pop one in my mouth, patiently wait for the powdered sugar, sugar, and butter to melt, and experience with each one the same progression of taste sensations. If gifts under the tree were few, Mothers holiday goodies assured a sense of plenty.

Why Sugar? Sweet baked goods have long been interwoven into our holiday traditions, in part because sugar was for our great-grandparents an expensive, scarce commodity to be rationed for special celebrations. Today, of course, sugar is cheap and readily available, but we still rely upon it at holiday time. The reason is not just tradition. Sugar excites the reward centers of the brain so we rely on its expansive energy to get us through the stress-filled holiday and to lift our spirits in these contractive, dark, cold, shortest days of the year. We may also use it for quick energy when holiday lists are long and there is little time to cook.

What is Sugar? Sugar comes from sugar cane, a sweet, tough stalk-like plant native to the tropics that is largely fiber. As a clue to how much nature intended that we eat, it takes 17 feet of fibrous sugar cane to make one cup of sugar and more than one foot of cane for the tablespoon of sugar that we might use at our morning breakfast. In refining, cane is stripped of its water, micronutrients, and it natural fiber. What is left is a pure chemical, C12-H22-O11, with nothing to turn rancid. Food companies love this quality because it insures a long shelf life for their sugary products.

A Careful Use of Sugar. We need to take care with sugarIt is easy to eat far more than nature intended because its fiber, a safeguard to create satiety, has been stripped away. Sugar also robs our bodies of essential nutrients, and in two distinct ways: The empty calories of sugar crowd out wholesome foods that we might otherwise consume; also to metabolize sugar, the body must tap into its precious mineral reserves. In addition, sugar is an expansive food that can make us feel spacey and out of control. It may lift us up temporarily, but in excess it comes with a dark backside. Sugar is linked to depression and a host of inflammatory chronic diseases.

Sugar Strategies for the Holidays. The holidays challenge our resolve to limit sweets when friends and family bake treats for us. Enjoy the bounty but to set limits, you might try these strategies:

  • Anchor sweets with proteins first; use them to top off a meal, not as a meal themselves Proteins will curb sugars blood sugar spike and prevent the potential to overeat sweets.
  • Limit portionsthe first bite is the most rewarding.
  • Chew well and savor every bitegive satiety a chance to register.
  • Consume sweets early in the dayyou have a better chance of burning off the calories.
  • Get plenty of sleeplack of sleep and exhaustion fuels cravings for sugar.

I still relish snowballs at Christmas time, but I cut them in half and space them out. Even in smaller servings, they are just as good as ever!

20 Reasons to Crave Sugar:

  • Not enough sleep. (This commands first place. Most of us are sleep-deprived)
  • Not enough emotional support and sense of connection.
  • Too much stress.
  • Too few wholesome foods.
  • Not enough
    • Calories
    • Protein
    • Fat
    • Carbohydrates
    • Sweet taste
    • Expansive foods
    • Acid-forming foods
    • Earth phase foods
    • Fire phase foods
  • Too much
    • Contractive foods
    • Alkalizing foods
    • Carbohydrates vs. Protein
    • Protein vs. Carbohydrates
    • Wood phase foods
    • Salt
    • Spices

Specific Strategies to Curb Sugar Cravings:

  • The easiest way to cut out sugar is to prepare your own whole meals since 70% of the sugar we consume comes from packaged/prepared products.
  • The vital force energy of whole foods satisfies and the creative process of preparation provides its own form of gratification.
  • Allow enough time at every meal to chew well. Sweetness and complex tastes are unlocked when we chew well. Carbohydrate digestion begins in the mouth and the true essence of whole foods is tapped only when we sit down long enough to chew well and enjoy our food. Whole plant foods such as grains, beans, and vegetables become sweeter the longer they are chewed, so chewing well can go a long way toward satisfying cravings for sweets.
  • Try to cook in advance and have plenty of sweet, whole foods on hand. Some foods, as outlined on page 7 are inherently sweet. Foods all have an associated temperature, so you can choose warming sweet potatoes, oats, or the heat of lamb in the cold winter months; or cooling melon and pears, salad greens, tempeh, and barley in the hot summer months.
  • Baking at high heat is a natural way to convert the carbohydrate energy of vegetables and grains into delectable sweet treats. Roasting root vegetables caramelizes their natural sweet starches into sugars, concentrating and intensifying their natural sweetness. Through the magic of heat and stable saturated fats, we can alter a pungent onion into sweet velvety smoothness.
  • Have plenty of sweet substitutes like roasted parsnips, sweet potatoes, winter squashes, dried fruits, and perhaps some bananas, dates, and figs on hand. At the first sign of a sugar craving, try one of these first.
  • Try salting fruit, even apples and strawberries. It intensifies their sweetness.
  • Foods that are pungent, sour, or spicy help curb sweet cravings. Try radishes (at the end of the meal), lemon juice and water, or spices like cinnamon to satisfy the sweet tooth. And, cinnamon, cloves, and bay leaves regulate blood sugar.
  • Raw carrots help raise blood sugar effectively but less dramatically than sugar, and for a longer time interval.
  • Try to give up soda and other sugary drinks, and have plenty of water. Sometimes our energy fails us simply because we are dehydrated.
  • Substitute fruit juices and sauces in cooking, as well as fruits and stewed fruits.
  • Learn to read food labels, especially for hidden forms of sugar.
  • The best natural sweeteners, with the greatest nutritive value and lowest sugar content (compared to sugars 99%), are amasake (40%), brown rice and barley malt (50%), and maple syrup and molasses (both at 65%). Rice syrup and barley malt are less disruptive to the mineral balance of the body, along with maple syrup which is indigenous to the Northeast.
  • If you do give in to a sugar craving, enjoy it. We are not supposed to be good all of the time. Diversions are adventures. They are wonderful experiments, but we owe ourselves to take note as if on a real adventure, and make sure we pay attention afterward to how we feel. It is all information. And, this information just might make veering off course less attractive the next time.

Natural Sweeteners as Substitutes for Sugar

Refined white sugar is a highly concentrated chemical. It is 99 percent pure sucrose, stripped of its natural nutrients. Sugar depletes our body of vital nutrients because just for its metabolism, we must tap into our stores of vitamins and minerals. Because our body is programmed to expect foods in their natural whole form, sugar creates a state of imbalance and a sense of emptiness that can set up cravings for its missing fiber, water, and nutrients. As a depleting food additive, sugar fosters acute disease by depressing the immune system, and it fosters chronic disease by upsetting the delicate interplay and intricate balancing of the endocrine-immune-digestive-assimilation systems of the body.

Indeed, we are supposed to like sweets. Nature planned it this way, giving us a plethora of sweet taste buds to steer us toward sweet foods that are also nutrient-dense, in order to encourage our survival. Nature also created an abundance of sweet, whole foods in the plant world to nourish us and for us to savor and enjoy.

Attracted to sweets, civilizations have for centuries consumed natural sweeteners for pleasure, energy, and health. Early healers understood, for example, that in minute doses honey could even be used medicinally. Because natural sweeteners do come with a host of vital nutrients that aid metabolism, they are a better choice than sugar.

Still, because all natural sweeteners are highly concentrated foods, they need to be used sparingly. Recall that it takes 17 feet of sugar cane to make one cup of sugar and that the 12-15 teaspoons of sugar in a typical bottle of Coke represent the sugar-energy concentrated from over four feet of sugar cane. Like sugar, all natural sweeteners are highly concentrated forms of energy. A tree must surrender 40 gallons of maple sap to make just one gallon of maple syrup. Between eight and 12 gallons of sorghum juice are needed to make one gallon of sorghum syrup. And, close to five pounds of fruit are required to make one pint of concentrated fruit juice. These comparisons make it easy to see why natural sweeteners are concentrated foods that, like sugar, can quickly elevate blood sugar levels.

Alternative Sweeteners and How to Substitute for Sugar in Your Favorite Recipes
Just as every natural sweetener has it own unique character, perhaps each has its own experienced expert-advocate. In my own research, I have turned to some of my favorite authors, including Paul Pitchford, Sally Fallon, Evelyn Roehl, Ann Louise Gittleman, and Meredith McCarty, all of whom have written about natural sweeteners. Each seems to have a unique flavor of ideas and recommendations.

Of all the natural sweeteners, both Paul Pitchford and Meredith McCarty prefer malted grain sweeteners (barley malt and brown rice syrup) because they are the least concentrated, least sweet, and most nearly whole-food sweeteners.7 Not highly processed, they are made in a natural and safe way that mimics the conversion of grain into sugar when we chew: Malting grains involves the amylase enzyme, similar to the way saliva in the mouth digests starches into simple sugars when we take the time to chew our food. Malted grains, which are only a third as sweet as refined sugar, also come with the major advantage that they metabolize very slowly and uniformly and do not create the spike in blood sugar that is associated with the simple sugars sucrose, fructose, and glucose. Meredith McCarty believes malted grains are the most healthful of all because they are processed naturally and provide a slow but prolonged source of energy that is calming and soothing in comparison to other sweeteners.8

Malted grains are also available as granules, an advantage in recipe conversions. But their distinctive taste may not always be appropriate for the flavor and texture that you are trying to achieve. This is where experimentation comes in. Play around using your favorite recipes. See what happens. Have fun!

A baked product made by substituting a malted-grain sweetener may even help to calm and soothe young family members. It is all interesting information. Just pay attention to how you feel.

The list below reflects my best effort to meld the information from the sources cited above, but please know that you may find some differences in advice and information depending upon whom you choose to read. Also, to provide you with better tips for baking, I have asked for advice and help from Ellen Arian, a wonderful friend who is a professional whole foods chef, and who bakes often for her clients, workshops and lectures, in addition to her husband and three children ( I am indebted to her for many of the baking tips that follow.

Agave: Rather new to the market, agave is already creating controversy. Critics point out that agave nectar is not truly derived from cactus, but rather from the starchy agave root bulb, which is converted to nectar by a method that is similar to the process used to transform corn to high fructose corn syrup.9 Because agave has a neutral effect on blood sugar levels and is used in small amounts (it is 50% sweeter than sugar), it may serve a role for some people, particularly diabetics who are trying to control blood sugar levels. It is more neutral (tasteless) than maple syrup or honey, and it works beautifully in homemade sorbet recipes in place of refined sugar. Agave is better as a supplementary sweetener for occasional use rather than as a mainstay.

Amasake: Derived from fermented rice, amasake is less than 40% maltose sugar (compared to white sugar at 99% sucrose). Maltose is a complex form of sugar so it is metabolized more slowly than sugar/sucrose. Amasake is one of the least potent sweeteners because of its low sugar content (it contains the least sugar of popular natural sweeteners) and because, as discussed above, maltose is slowly absorbed by the blood stream.

Barley Malt: The fermented extract of roasted barley sprouts, barley malt is only 50% maltose sugar so it, like amasake, is relatively easy on blood sugar levels. It is very strongly flavored so it is not always suitable. It can work in spice cakes and with root vegetables like sweet potatoes and carrots (e.g., sweet potato pie or carrot cake). It also browns beautifully and sweetens home-baked bread. Barley malt is not as sweet as honey and it offers slight amounts of vitamins and minerals. Because it is thick, it should be warmed or brought to room temperature before measuring. Helpful tip: Lightly oil measuring spoons or cups that you plan to use so it slides out easily. When baking, you might develop the habit of measuring fats and oils before sweeteners. This will make it easier to clean measuring utensils.

Brown Rice Syrup: Like barley malt, brown rice syrup is made from fermented brown rice, and is just 50% maltose sugar. It is the mildest flavored of the liquid sweeteners and is less destructive to the bodys mineral balance, providing some of its own trace minerals. Brown rice syrup is about half as strong as honey and can work well when paired with maple syrup in baking. It is best suited to recipes where a crisp topping is desired and less suited to cakes and muffins. This is because it tends to become hard and sticky with baking, an effect that works well in a crisp or crumble.

Date Sugar: Made from finely-ground, dehydrated dates, it tastes similar to brown sugar and is rich in nutrients, with most still intact. Date sugar, which is more than 70% sucrose, is very sweet, and it provides fiber and a host of vitamins and minerals. It is high in tryptophan, so it can help calm hyperactive children. Unfortunately, because it does not readily dissolve, has a tendency to burn, and does not result in a pleasing texture, it may not substitute easily in your favorite baked goods or in hot beverages. For baking, maple crystals are a better choice. Date sugar is better used as part of a sweet crisp topping, or as a solo topping for hot grain cereals. (Date sugar may be hard to find on store shelves.)

Fruit Juices: Fruit juices are about 10% sucrose. Try to make your own since high heat used in commercially processed juices can destroy nutrients. Fruit juice is versatile and can work in all types of desserts, and pairs well with maple syrup in baked goods. Like all ingredients, it should be brought to room temperature before using. Fruit juice requires a lower baking temperature, which means you will also have to experiment with baking times. Try reducing the oven temperature 25 F degrees from what is called for and begin checking about 10 minutes in advance, and in 5 minute intervals, from what is outlined in your recipe directions.


Honey: Made from flower nectar, it is highly refined and processed, in this case in the stomachs of bees. It is important to buy organic honey whenever possible, since honey is not the pure product we might imagine it to be. Sugar waters, insecticides, fungicides, and herbicides are used in the rearing of bees. Also , in fighting mites, many beekeepers use highly toxic coumaphos strips. Traces of all these pesticides can be found in commercial brands of honey. Honey is 85% sugar, three-quarters glucose and one-quarter fructose, and is absorbed quickly into the bloodstream. Honey has a strong taste, which is much sweeter than sugar. In minute doses, honey has some medicinal benefits, both for inflammation and as an anti-microbial.

Maple Syrup: Maple syrup is boiled-down sugar-maple tree sap and provides a host of trace minerals incorporated from the tree roots growing deep in the ground. It deserves a central place in baking since it is local to the Northeast, has a long-standing history, keeps well in the refrigerator, and provides a gentle sweetness that works well in all sorts of baked goods. For people trying to control blood sugar levels it may have to be used conservatively since it is concentrated; it is 85% sucrose. Maple syrup has a strong flavor all its own, which imparts a wonderful taste to many baked goods and especially dairy-based desserts. (Avoid commercially-processed brands that often employ formaldehyde. Buy organic maple syrup and try to purchase it in glass bottles to reduce the risk of lead contamination.) You might want to use Grade B syrup in baking because it often costs less and has a fuller flavor, while Grade A is an option for anyone who wants a lighter flavor and does not mind paying a little extra. Maple syrup can be mixed half and half with brown rice syrup or apple juice, so enjoy experimenting.

Maple Crystals (Maple Sugar): Maple crystals are a wonderful, all-purpose sweetener that substitutes easily for refined sugar in nearly all recipes. It is especially good for children transitioning away from refined sugar. It is very versatile, though it may disappoint when baking cookies since it does not always produce the same crisp product achieved with sugar. Made from what is left after evaporating all the liquid from maple syrup, it is rich in trace minerals with a unique maple flavor that adds depth to foods. It has a tendency to clump, but a quick trip through a spice grinder can quickly rectify this. Since maple crystals can be costly, it is worth buying them in bulk. A good source is

Molasses: The byproduct of the sugar refining process, unsulfured molasses is made from the juice of natural cane and is very sweet. Medium/dark molasses, from the second extraction, is moderately sweet. Blackstrap molasses, which is 65% sucrose, is made from the last extraction, so it is the most concentrated in minerals, especially iron, calcium, zinc, copper, and chromium; but it is also the most concentrated in toxins such as lead and pesticides.

Rapadura: Unrefined evaporated cane juice, it contains minerals, especially silica. It resembles sugar and so is a direct and easy substitute for sugar in baking. Like sugar, it is pure sucrose.

Sorghum Syrup: Sorghum, 65% sucrose, is made by boiling down cane juice. Because sorghum cane attracts few insects, it is rather free of pesticides so it is a good sweetener for those seeking chemical-free sweeteners.

Stevia: A sweetener derived from an herb native to Latin America, it does not affect blood sugar levels and can be used successfully by those unable to use other natural sweeteners. Choose only the green or brown extracts or powders; the white and clear extracts can create imbalance because they are very refined and are devoid of nutrients.11 A powerful sweetener, stevia must be used sparingly; and because it has no bulk, it is not appropriate for baking. Stevia was only recently approved to be sold as food, rather than as a supplement. Because it is a plant, it cannot be patented, so it does not have a strong marketing force to foster its use.

Sucanat: The abbreviation/trade name for Sugar Cane Natural. It is pure, naturally dried sugar cane juice with its molasses content remaining. The molasses content leaves brown flecks in baked products. It also clumps, so you may need to sift or grind it in a spice grinder before using. It is 88% sucrose, but with most phyto-nutrients of the cane still intact. It has a mild flavor with a molasses accent and can be substituted 1:1 for sugar.

Note concerning turbinado (raw) sugar and brown sugar:
Turbinado, which is often advertised as a nutritious natural sweetener, is best avoided. As the first extraction from molasses, it can contain insects, molds, and bacteria, unless heated and sanitized. It is actually highly processed.
Brown sugar is simply refined white sugar with a bit of molasses added to add color and taste.

The Chart below can be used flexibly. Sweetening foods is a matter of taste and also depends upon where you are on your own personal journey transitioning away from sugar. You can use this guide as a starting point and then adapt it to your own tastes and preferences. Experiment, but you cannot go wrong following these suggestions.


Amount in Cups

Reduce Liquid/Cup Sugar

Add Baking Soda:

Barley Malt 1 1/3 1/4 cup 1/4 t.
Date Sugar
(not for baking)
1 1/2
Fruit Juice 2/3 1/3 cup 1/4 t.
Honey 2/3 1/4 cup 1/4 t.
Maltose 1 1/2 slightly
Maple Syrup 2/3 3 T. 1/4 t.
Maple Crystals 3/4-1
Molasses 1/2
Brown Rice Syrup 1 1/3 1/4 cup 1/4 t.
Sorghum Syrup 2.3 slightly

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Recipes: Sugar-Free Sweet Treats to Kick the Sugar Habit

Coconut-Covered Date/Nut Balls
2 cups medjool dates (pitted and soaked 30 minutes)
1 cup almonds, pecans, or walnuts, soaked in 2 cups water overnight, drained
1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1 t. cinnamon
t. vanilla

In a food processor, add drained dates and nuts and pulse until finely chopped.
Add 1 cup coconut along with the cinnamon, and vanilla and pulse until mixed.
Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and kneed. Roll ball to desired size. Roll in extra coconut.
Keeps well in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Source: Raw Living Foods

Plum Applesauce (A Dessert)

  • 2 lb. gala or golden delicious apples, quartered, seeded and left unpeeled 2 lb. red or black plums, quartered and pitted
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup

Cook all ingredients in a heavy pot, covered, over low heat, stirring occasionally until fruit is very tender and falling apart1-1-1/4 hours.

Force mixture through a medium mesh sieve using a spatula, discarding peels. Keeps covered and chilled one week. Source: Gourmet, September, 2006

Peach Compote

  • 2 lbs ripe fresh peaches
  • 2 cups water or to cover
  • 1 tsp vanilla Roasted nuts

Scrub peaches thoroughly and cut lengthwise, gently separating fruit from pit. Cut each half in 3 wedges. Place peaches in a heavy saucepan with water and vanilla, bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer five minutes. Serve chilled or room temperature with sprinkling of roasted nuts.

Stewed Apples

  • 6 apples
  • Apple juice, or water; Sweetener, if desired.

Peel and core the apples and cut them into attractive chunks. Place in a saucepan and pour juice over them until it is about an inch deep in the pan. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered until the fruit is soft, stirring once or twice to insure against sticking. Check sweetness and add sugar or the sweetener you prefer, if it is needed.

Variations: 1. Raisinscooked with the fruit provide interesting texture and enough addedsweetness for most apples. 2. Adding a stick of cinnamon gives bright flavor without the disagreeable catching in the throat that the ground spice may cause. 3. Ginger add a long think slice of fresh gingerroot with, or instead of, the cinnamon, taking it out when the flavor seems strong enough. Both cinnamon and ginger parry sore throats and congestion.

Stewed Pears

Follow directions above, but use gingerroot, cinnamon stick, and lemon peel or dried cranberries.

Source: Laurel Robertson

Blueberry-Strawberry (or Raspberry) Tart

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • cup almonds, ground
  • cup walnuts, ground
  • cup whole wheat pastry flour Pinch of salt
  • cup maple syrup
  • 2 T. cold-pressed vegetable oil
  • 2 T. water
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1 cup fresh strawberries or raspberries
  • 1 cup apple or berry juice
  • 1 T. kudzu (or cup arrowroot)

Preheat oven to 350 F. In a bowl, combine oats, ground nuts, flour, and salt.

Add 2 T. of maple syrup, oil, and water; mix well. With wet hands, press the mixture into an 8-by-8 pan. Bake 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

Wash and trim strawberries and cut in half. If using raspberries, rinse and use whole. Mix juice and kudzu together in a small pan until kudzu is dissolved. Add blueberries and remaining 2 T. of maple syrup; heat mixture, on medium heat, stirring constantly until thick and clear, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in strawberries or raspberries. Pour mixture on top of pre-baked oat-nut crust.

Allow to cool at room temperature or in the refrigerator before serving. Serves 9.

Source: Cynthia Liar.

Cashew-Almond Cream Topping for Any Fruit Compote or Dessert

  • 1 cup cashew pieces
  • 1 cup almonds
  • 2 T. maple syrup
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • to 1/3 cup water
  • 2 T. mirin (sweet rice wine) (optional)

In a food processor or blender, grind the nuts until pulverized. With the machine running, add the maple syrup, vanilla, optional mirin and enough water to make a creamy consistency. (This cream has a tendency to thicken as it sits; add some water as needed to thin it out.). Makes 2 cups. Source: The Natural Gourmet

Pumpkin Tart with Pecan Crust


  • 1 cup pecans
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour 1/8 t. sea salt
  • cup maple syrup
  • cup vegetable oil or choice (ghee)


  • 1 pounds winter squash, roasted and pureed (2 cups) 1 cup silken tofu
  • 10 T. maple syrup
  • 1 T. fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 T. finely grated orange zest
  • t. ground cinnamon
  • t. nutmeg
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • cup arrowroot powder


  1. Adjust a rack to the middle shelf of the oven and preheat to 350 F. Lightly grease a 9 tart pan with a removable bottom.
  2. In a food processor, combine the pecans, flour, and salt and grind to a fine meal. Add the maple syrup and oil and pulse a few times to form dough.
  3. Transfer the dough to the tart pan. Lay a piece of plastic wrap over the dough and spread it to fill the bottom and sides of the pan. Remove theplastic wrap and prick the dough all over with a fork. Bake for 10 minutes and remove from the oven to cool.


  1. Combine the pumpkin puree with the remaining ingredients in a food processor and puree until creamy smooth.
  2. Pour the filling into the tart shell and bake for 50 minutes.
  3. Cool on a rack, then refrigerate until chilled.

Note: To make a pumpkin puree, preheat the oven to 375 F. Cut a smallpumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds. Place cut side down in a baking pan and roast for 30-40 minutes until it pierces easily with a knife. Cool and scoop our flesh, puree until smooth. Source: Peter Berley

Apple Upside-Down Biscuit Cake
For the topping:
3 T. unsalted butter
2 T. maple sugar
1 lb. Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into thin wedges
For the cake:
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3 T. maple syrup
1 t. baking powder
t. baking soda
t. salt
t. cinnamon
5 T. cold, unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/3 cup well-shaken buttermilk
Preheat oven to 425 F.
For topping: Heat butter in an ovenproof 10-inch heavy skillet (preferably well-seasoned cast-iron) over moderate heat until foam subsides. Stir in maple syrup and remove from heat. Spread mixture evenly in skillet and arrange apples, overlapping in one layer.
For cake: Blend flour, syrup, baking powder and soda, salt, and cinnamon in a food processor. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Transfer to a bowl and add buttermilk, stirring just until mixture is moistened. Drop batter on top of apples and gently spread, leaving a 1-inch border around the edge of the skillet so cake can expand. Bake cake in middle of oven until golden brown and firm to the touch, 20-25 minutes. Cool cake in skillet on a rack 3 minutes, then invert onto a platter. Replace on the cake any apples that stick to the skillet. Serve warm with crme fraiche or sour cream.
Source: Ellen Arian

Breakfast/Snack Raisin Squares (18-24 squares)
3 cups seedless raisins
1 cups filtered water
1 cinnamon stick
3 T. fresh lemon juice
cup kuzu or arrowroot, dissolved in
2 T. water
3 cups rolled oats
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
t. salt
pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup maple syrup or barley malt

Combine all ingredients in a 2 quart saucepan. Cover and cook over low heat for 10 minutes.
2. Discard the cinnamon stick. In a blender or food processor, puree the raisins and return them to the saucepan. Add the dissolved kuzu and cook over high heat, stirring until thickened and clear; set aside.
3. Preheat oven to 350 F. Oil a 9-by-14 inch cake pan.
4. Crust: Place the oats, flour, and salt in the container of a food processor. With the machine running, drop in the pieces of butter, one at a time, until well mixed (Or, cut the butter into the flour in a bowl, using 2 knives until the mixture is crumbly.)
5. With the food processor still running, slowly pour in the syrup or barley malt (or stir it into the flour in the bowl) until well mixed and you have a soft dough. Divide the dough in half.
6. Roll out one-half between two pieces of wax paper, to fit the cake pan. Remove the top paper. Invert the dough into the pan and carefully peel off the bottom paper. Gently press the dough into all the corners of the pan, then fold over or press down the edges so that the crust is flat with no border. Spread the filling evenly over the crust, smoothing with a rubber spatula.
7. Break up the remaining dough between your fingers until crumbly. Sprinkle the crumbly dough evenly over the raisin filling, covering it completely. Press down lightly.
8. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until very lightly browned. Let cool, then cut into squares.
Source: The Natural Gourmet

Banana-Nut Muffins (Makes 12 Muffins)
1/2 cup walnuts or pecans
1/2 cup butter or ghee, melted and cooled slightly
cup maple syrup
Two large eggs
Two teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Three small or medium bananas, about 2 cups, well mashed
Two cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1 t. fine sea salt.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 12 muffin cups with parchment paper liners.
Place the nuts on a cookie sheet and toast for 10 minutes (about 4 minutes for pecans). Cool,chop and set aside.In a large bowl, mix together the butter or ghee, maple syrup, eggs, vanilla and bananas.
Over a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and sea salt.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, adding the nuts as you stir. Be careful not to overmix.
Spoon the batter into the muffin cups, filling each about full.
Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the tops of the muffins feel well set. Turn the muffins out of the tin and cool on a rack. Source: Ellen Arian

Blueberry Muffins (10-12 muffins)
8 tablespoons butter at room temperature
3/4 cup plus
Two tablespoons maple syrup
Two large eggs
Two cups whole wheat pastry flour
Two teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 cup whole milk (or 1/4 cup buttermilk + 1/8 teaspoon baking soda)
2-1/2 cups organic blueberries, fresh or frozen
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place parchment liners in muffin cups.
In a large bowl, cream the butter with an electric mixer. Add the maple syrup and continue creaming until light and fluffy, scraping the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
In a medium bowl, sift the dry ingredients. Then add them alternately with the milk to the butter-maple mixture. Mix only until just combined.
In a small bowl, crush a handful of the blueberries with a fork and mix them into the batter byhand, along with the remaining blueberries.
Source: Ellen Arian

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