Holiday Happenings: Holiday Dried Fruit Cake

“I just don’t understand why….”

Recently I picked up a Cooking Light magazine which had slow cooker recipes. (If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you know how much I love my crock pots!) To my disappointment, the recipes only proved how crazy this world is when it comes to healthy eating.

Cooking Light is a magazine which focuses on healthier eating, so can someone explain to me why their recipe for apple cider, which has a lot of natural sugars from the apples, tells you to add brown sugar?! Or why a recipe for green beans calls for sugar in the balsamic glaze when balsamic vinegar is usually used by chefs precisely for its sweetness?! Or why a pork chop recipe uses a can of Coke?! Coke!!

This is a perfect example of how the world falls into the trap of compartmentalizing. Cooking Light‘s idea of healthier eating is focusing on reducing fat and introducing more whole grains, which does add to healthier eating but it’s not the whole story. Similarly, folks who buy store bought products will find reduce fat food with higher levels of sugar or sugar free foods with higher levels of fat.

Healthy eating is about moderation in all respects. That doesn’t mean giving up all foods which might not be the best for you. It just means doing what you can to make those foods healthier for you when you do eat them.

Several weeks ago, someone asked me about fruit cake. She wanted to know if it was possible to make one without all the sugar usually in fruit cake and whether it could be made “vegan” and gluten free. Since she asked, I decided to try, and the result was actually such that a person at a recent workshop I came up to me at the end and said, “You shouldn’t call it fruit cake.”

“Why,” I asked, “it is fruit cake.”

“Yes, but I wasn’t going to try it because it said, ‘fruit cake,’ but I did and it’s so good.”

And it is good. For folks who like fruit cake or for folks who would like to try a vegan, gluten free, reduced sugar fruit cake, the recipe follows below. This version has no added white refined sugar because the fruit and peel mix has more than enough! It does use natural sugars from bananas and other dried fruit to give it a sweetness which is just enough but not overpowering. In addition, I chose some higher fiber and protein flour to add to its nutritional heft to help counter some of those natural sugars, and I reduced the fat to just 1/2 cup and used a healthier plant based oil at that.

Holiday Dried Fruit Cake

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups ripe, mashed bananas

1/2 cup avocado oil

3 tbsp ground flax seed mixed with 6 tbsp of water

16 oz pkg of Paradise Old English Fruit and Peel mix

1/2 cup currants

3/4 cup dried chopped dates

2 cups boiling water

2 cups gluten free flour blend (I used King Arthur’s whole grain version)

1 cup gluten free oat flour

2 tbsp Hershey’s Special Dark unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tbsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp baking soda

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

Baking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line eight 4 x 6 pans with parchment paper so you have wings on all four sides to pull the breads out at the end.
  2. In a large bowl mix the mashed bananas and oil.
  3. In a small bowl mix the ground flax seed and water.
  4. In a medium bowl mix the Old English mix, currants, dates, and boiling water.
  5. In another medium bowl, mix the gluten free flour, oat flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, and baking soda.
  6. To the large bowl with the bananas and oil, add the flax seed mix, the dried fruit mix and the dry ingredients, along with the vinegar, and blend really well until everything is moist and incorporated.
  7. Divide the batter evenly among the eight pans and put them onto a cookie sheet large enough to hold all eight pans.
  8. Slide the cookie sheet into the oven and bake the breads for 20 minutes. Then turn them around and bake for another 20 minutes. When the breads are done they’ll be slightly puffed and a toothpick inserted in the center will come out clean.
  9. Remove the breads to a cooling rack by pulling them out of the pans by the wings you created.
  10. Let the breads cool for about 15 minutes before removing the parchment paper and allowing them to cool completely on the wire racks.
  11. The breads can be stored by wrapping them well in plastic wrap and putting them in the fridge. They also freeze well if you then wrap them again in aluminum foil and put them into the freezer.
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