By Chef Lauren Cox, Closer to Your Food

The holidays are my favorite time of year and evoke warm feelings of nostalgia and joy. This is due mostly in part to the cornucopia of food and treats that are readily available. From Grandma’s pie to the cookies your co-worker brings in, these seemingly harmless treats have sneaky calories that really add up and can sabotage our health goals. Regular indulgence can set you down a slippery slope towards inflammation, weight gain, and loss of sleep, just to name a few. This holiday season, consider trying these baking and cooking substitutions that are nutrient-dense and full of fiber. Happy baking!


Instead of using white flour, try ½ coconut and ½ almond flour. Try the recipes below!

Sugar Cookies

½ cup grass-fed butter
¼ cup organic coconut oil
¾ cups sweetener of choice (such as honey and organic evaporated cane juice)
2 organic eggs
½ vanilla bean pod, seeded
¼ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
3 cups blanched, fine grain almond flour

With an electric mixer in a large bowl, beat the wet ingredients together (butter, oil, sugar, eggs and vanilla).

In a separate bowl, sift together the salt, baking soda and flour. Fold in the wet ingredients until well-combined. Form the dough into a ball and wrap tight in plastic wrap. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Remove the dough from the plastic and center it in between two cookie sheet sized pieces of parchment paper. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough to about ¼”-½” thick. Put the dough back in the fridge for another 30 minutes.

When the flat dough has chilled, remove the top layer of parchment. Using your desired cookie cutters, cut out the shapes you want and carefully transfer them to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Use as much dough as you can and form the scraps into a ball to repeat the rolling process if desired.

Bake the cookies at 350 degrees for about 12-18 minutes, depending on the size of the shapes. They should be lightly golden on the edges. Give them at least 10 minutes to cool before transferring off of the baking sheet.

Grain-Free Chocolate Cake/Cupcakes


Walnut Pie Crust

2 ½ cups walnuts
¼ teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons coconut sugar

Add ingredients in a food processor and pulse until very smooth. Press the mix into a pie dish evenly and bake for about 10 minutes at 350 degrees. Add your favorite pie filling, or try Butternut Squash Pie!



Instead of using refined white sugar, try these alternatives:

  • White sugar for baking – ½ coconut sugar and ½ xylitol crystals
  • Corn syrup – organic, raw 100% agave syrup OR raw local honey
  • Chocolate syrup – 8 ounces dark organic chocolate melted with 7 ounces coconut oil
  • Brown sugar – date or coconut sugar
  • Candy garnishes and decorations – fresh herbs like rosemary, mint, and sage, berries, dried fruit, nuts, seeds, edible flowers
  • Powdered sugar – ¼ organic corn starch + ¾ xylitol crystals blended fine

Paleo Maple Frosting

1 cup organic palm shortening
½ cup local, raw honey or real maple syrup
¼ cup kudzu root powder
¼ cup + 1 tablespoon blanched almond flour or fine grain coconut flour
¼ cup organic coconut oil

In a large bowl with a standing or hand mixer on high, mix together everything but the coconut oil until it is very fluffy (about 2 minutes).

Slowly drizzle in the coconut oil with the mixer still on high. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula to catch any debris and mix for another 10-20 seconds with the mixer. Store in an airtight container or use right away.


Nothing says holiday like a cup of hot cocoa. Try homemade marshmallows for a special, healthier treat!

  • Instead of Milk Chocolate, use 80%+ dark chocolate
  • Candy Canes – fresh chopped mint or mint oil


Homemade Marshmallows

½ cup chilled watershutterstock_470728091
3 tablespoons gelatin or vegan gelatin unflavored substitute
1 ½ cups organic cane sugar
1 cup agave nectar
¼ teaspoon sea salt
½ cup tepid water
1 vanilla bean pod, seeded
¼ cup organic cornstarch
¼ cup organic powdered sugar

Place the mixing bowl of your standing mixer in the fridge and chill for at least 10 minutes.

Pour the gelatin evenly over the ½ cup of chilled water and set aside.

In a pan on high heat, add the cane sugar, agave nectar, sea salt and tepid water. Cover the pan and let it cook for three minutes.  Using a candy thermometer, bring the mix up to 240-250 degrees.

Take your standing mixer bowl out of the fridge and attach to the mixer with a wire whisk attachment.

In a large plastic bag, add the cornstarch and powdered sugar together and mix.  Grease a 9” baking dish with a neutral oil (such as coconut oil) and lightly coat it with about ¼ of the cornstarch/sugar mix, tapping any clumps off. Set the dish aside.

When your sugar mix is up to at least 230 degrees, turn the heat off.  Add the gelatin and vanilla beans into the mixer bowl.  Turn the mixer onto low speed and slowly drizzle the hot sugar mix into the bowl. Once all of the sugar is in the bowl, turn the mixer onto high speed and whisk for 10-12 minutes.  You want the mix to triple in volume and have thick, sticky marshmallow.

Using a greased spatula, transfer the marshmallow mix into the prepared baking dish.  Pat it down as evenly as you can.  Use another quarter of the corn starch/powdered sugar mix and sprinkle on top of the marshmallow mix evenly.  Cover with a dish towel and let the marshmallow sit in a cool, dark place for at least 6 hours.

When the marshmallow is set, take it out of the baking pan and cut it into your desired shapes.  Place them into the plastic bag with the rest of the corn starch mix and shake so that the exposed sticky sides get coated. Keep in an air-tight container and enjoy!


Use organic dairy for your cooking and baking needs, or try non-dairy alternatives.

  • Sour Cream – plain organic Greek yogurt
  • Cream – coconut cream
  • Butter – ghee, coconut oil or organic grass-fed/ European-style butter
  • Whipped Cream – Coconut whip (whip a very cold can of coconut milk for 3-4 minutes!)

Plant-Based Egg Nog



  • Bacon – morel and chanterelle mushrooms or truffle oil
  • Mayo – chickpea mayo, real aioli or plain greek yogurt
  • Parmesan cheese – nutritional yeast
  • Soy sauce – liquid or coconut aminos

Cauliflower Mash




Closer to Your Food is a wellness blog focused on eating and cooking for health and sustainability with recipes and lifestyle tips formulated around a plant-based diet and home-grown local foods. Chef Lauren Cox holds a B.A. from the le Cordon Bleu in Culinary Management with over 8 years of fine dining experience in private dining, catering and Michelan star restaurants. 

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.