Holidays are truly worth celebrating! And baked goodies are but just one way many families observe not just the holiday but family traditions and what is special.
Nonetheless, baking brings on an anxiety that cooking does not. In fact, baking is considered a science by some, whereas cooking is an art. Baking requires fairly exact measurements, whereas cooking can be very forgiving. Adding or subtracting ingredients can be personal discretion. For the most part, you cannot do that with a baked product.
However, once you get the basics down, the world is your oyster… you can do anything you want.
In baking, every ingredient has a specific purpose. For example:
Flour gives the structure to baked products (there are many types of flour)
Eggs bind the ingredients and can add to the leavening (think fluffy egg whites) to baked goods
Baking powder, baking soda, and yeast are leaveners (make baked products rise)
Fats, like butter, margarine, oils, or lard, add both flavor and texture to baked products
Flavorings (like vanilla) enhance the flavor of a recipe… know that a little goes a long way
Sugar sweetens and adds to the texture of baked products (there are many types of sugar)
Salt enhances the flavor of all the other ingredients in a baked product
Know, too, that in baking, measuring is of utmost importance. Dry ingredients should be measured in a dry measuring cup and wet ingredients in a liquid measuring cup. Small amounts of both wet or dry ingredients can be measured with measuring spoons.
Using a kitchen scale is the most accurate way to measure both liquid and dry ingredients. Accuracy in baking is of utmost importance. That is what science is all about. Too much or too little of an ingredient can mean disaster.
Other helpful baking tips include understanding the processes. Terms in baking include (but are not limited to):
Grease and flour
And then there are other issues. Baking requires an oven that has temperature controls. Knowing how your oven works is quite important. It never hurts to purchase an oven thermometer to check temperature accuracy. Know the property of the pans you are using. Baking pans can be made from a variety of materials… aluminum, cast iron, ceramic, glass, stainless steel, etc. Each of these heats a bit differently.
Holiday baking recipes can be heavy on fat, sugar, and sodium. Baking holiday goodies can be done nutritiously. The secret is to bake with simple substitutions. It is possible to use healthier ingredients without sacrificing flavor.
Here are some ways to lighten up your holiday baking:
1/2 cup butter/margarine 1/4 cup applesauce & 1/4 cup canola oil
All purpose flour (1 cup) Whole wheat flour, cake flour, or self-rising flour
Salt Ground spices
Heavy cream (1 cup) 1 cup evaporated skim milk
Margarine (stick) 1/4 cup olive or canola oil
Sugar (1 cup granulated) Brown sugar or marketed sugar substitute
Buttermilk (1 cup) Milk and vinegar, milk and lemon juice, or sour cream and milk
Chocolate chips (1 cup) 1/2 cup mint chocolate chips, dried fruit, chopped nuts
Chart adapted from American Cancer Society
The Home Baking Association, https://www.homebaking.org/, is a great website to reference. Their main goal is to perpetuate generations of home bakers.
Don’t be intimidated by baking. With a bit of patience and practice, you will be able to WOW! your holiday guests with delectable treats that may become a family holiday tradition for generations to come.
Caution! Holidays may be hazardous, particularly when it comes to the waistline. (Forethought and forbearance now will pay dividends for your health in the new year.)
Often, people rationalize, saying “It’s holiday time. I’ll eat healthy later.” Later often means a cost in more pounds, clothes that don’t fit, and self-esteem that is bottomed out.
So, how do you cope and come out on top of holiday temptations? Here are some suggestions for host, hostess, or guest.
Host or Hostess
Keep the menu light when it comes to foods high in fat and sugar. Remember that simple foods can be delicious and healthier.
Provide low-calorie foods such as low-fat cottage cheese or yogurt dips with fresh vegetables or fruit dippers.
There is also a variety of low-calorie beverages that contain fewer calories than traditional beverages. Eggnog contains 340 calories a cup.
Don’t prepare more food than needed for a party. You may end up encouraging everyone to eat more so you won’t have leftovers.
Make baked goods and other goodies in various sizes so guests can choose what they want. Remember, in many cases, you will still have a tasty product if you use about ¼ cup less sugar in many cookie recipes.
Don’t be offended if someone refuses food. Most likely, the reason is not your cooking, but their own resolve to maintain a diet.
Plan activities that use energy such as outdoor caroling or games. Holidays are an active time, but we seldom get enough exercise to offset extra calories.
Decide your food limits before you arrive at a party.
Play a game with yourself. See how long you can wait before you take that first nibble from the hors d’oeuvre tray.
Use a smaller plate.
Don’t stand next to the food table.
Let one drink last the entire evening.
Be aware of emotional eating.
Don’t go to the party hungry.
To curb holiday eating, eat a balanced diet with healthy choices and get plenty of exercise. Overeating doesn’t have to be part of your holiday celebration.
Blueberries were once known as star berries because of the pointy flower calyxes on top of the berries. Blueberries have grown in North America for thousands of years. Native Americans dried the berries in the sun and crushed them into a powder to be used as a rub on meats. Whole berries were added to soups, stews, and to other ingredients to make a pudding call sautauthig.
Blueberries from a Central Florida hobbiest farm. UF/IFAS Photo: Sally Lanigan.uthig.
Luscious, sweet blueberries have a nutrition profile. Blueberries are low in fat and a good source of fiber and vitamin C. Blueberries are very high in antioxidants.
Look for fresh blueberries that are firm, dry, plump, smooth skinned, and relatively free from leaves and stems. Color should be deep purple blue to blue-black; reddish berries are not ripe but may be used in cooking.
Blueberries will keep a day or two at room temperature. They will remain fresh in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Cover berries to prevent dehydration. Reddish berries will be sour but will ripen if placed in a container with a few ripe berries and left uncovered at room temperature for a day or two.
Fresh berries should be stored covered in the refrigerator and washed just before using. Use berries within 10 days of picking or purchasing.
Blueberries are easily frozen for later use. Freeze unwashed blueberries in airtight, resealable plastic bags. If thawed, keep refrigerated and use within 3 days.
Next time you are shopping in the produce department, add fresh blueberries to your shopping cart and enjoy the delicious flavor of the berries.
BLUEBERRY PANCAKE STACKS
Vegetable oil for cooking
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup fresh blueberries
Dash of nutmeg
In a mixing bowl, stir together the milk, oil, and egg. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg. Add dry ingredients to the milk and stir just until mixed (batter should be slightly lumpy). Gently fold in the berries. Spoon the batter onto a griddle or pan greased with vegetable oil and heated to medium-hot (dollops should be about the size of a silver dollar). Let the batter cook until the tops of the pancakes begin to bubble, then flip and cook until done.
Stack and serve immediately with softened margarine and warm syrup.
Makes about eighteen 2 ½” pancakes.
Combine 1 pint of blueberries and 1 cup of maple syrup in a saucepan.
Heat to boiling, then lower the heat and simmer until most of the fruit has burst. Remove from heat and use a fork to smoosh the berries. The syrup will thicken as it cools. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
July in National Watermelon Month. Watermelon is a sweet, low-calorie summer treat. The taste and fragrance of a cool, juicy slice of watermelon can’t be beat. Celebrate by trying this different recipe using nutritious, delicious watermelon.
Blackberries are one of the easiest fruiting crops to grow in the North Florida Garden. Fruits mature during the month of May and early June. If you don’t plan to eat your blackberries fresh, learn some quick tips from UF IFAS Escambia County Extension for saving blackberries for a special treat later on.