Holiday Baking

As the season for celebration goes into full swing, we like to prepare holiday treats to share with family and friends. Our guiding principle is to make them exclusively with unrefined flours and sweeteners so that they are in line with our wholefoods approach to cooking.

Here are some favorites, taken from the brand new edition of American Wholefoods Cuisine: 1300 Wholesome Meatless Recipes from Short Order to Gourmet – the “vegetarian Joy of Cooking” – introducing a way of eating that “tastes great and happens to be healthy.”

  • Click here to see what readers and reviewers say about American Wholefoods Cuisine. 

Happy Holidays to you all,

         Nikki & David

PS. Don’t forget to bookmark the Wholefoods Diner and tell your friends about it as we change the recipes all the time.

Walnut Date-Topped Shortbread Squares

A rich, festive cookie.

For the Base:

1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon maple syrup
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Topping:

2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
14 teaspoon baking soda
½ cup chopped dates
½ cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup orange, pineapple or apple juice
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350o F.

Place flour for the base in a mixing bowl and cut in butter and oil. Stir in honey, maple syrup and vanilla. Mix with hands to form a smooth dough.

Press base into an oiled 8-inch square pan. Bake for 15 minutes, until barely firm and a little colored at the edges.

While base bakes, prepare topping by combining flour, salt, cinnamon, baking soda, dates, and walnuts, then stirring in juice, honey and vanilla.

Spread topping over partially baked crust. Return to oven for 15 minutes; topping will not be quite set when done.

Cool and cut into squares.

Yield: 9 squares

Note: Double the recipe can be baked in a 9 x 13-inch pan.

Tip: To cut sticky dates, dip scissors or knife into some flour first.

Mr. Bill Cookies

Gingerbread men for a new generation.

5 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1½ teaspoons ground ginger
¼ cup oil
¼ cup melted butter
½ cup honey
1 cup molasses
¼ cup milk

Combine first six dry ingredients in a bowl. Combine oil, butter, honey, molasses, and milk separately. Pour wet ingredients into dry, mixing with a wooden spoon to form a stiff dough. After the initial mixing, dough can be kneaded gently by hand to combine, if easier. Chill for 1 hour or longer.

Preheat oven to 375o F.

Take one-fourth of the dough from the refrigerator at a time and roll on a well-floured surface to a thickness of ¼ inch for chewy cookies, 1/8 inch for crisp ones. Cut into men or other desired shapes.

Using a spatula, transfer cookies to an oiled, floured baking sheet. Arrange close together but not touching. About one-fourth the dough can be accommodated per baking sheet.

Bake for 10 minutes. Loosen from pan while still hot, let sit a few minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool.

Yield: about 60 4-inch men, or 3 pounds cookies

Spritz Cookies

A rich butter cookie made with pressed dough.

½ cup butter
½ cup honey
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 egg yolks
1½ teaspoons almond extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups whole wheat flour

Preheat oven to 400o F.

Cream butter, honey and maple syrup. Beat in egg yolks, extract and salt. When smooth, stir in flour to make a stiff dough.

Place dough in a pastry bag and press out in 3-inch lengths onto an ungreased baking sheet. Shape each piece into an “S” or “O” and press with damp fingers to flatten, making ridges in the spaces between fingers.

Bake for 10 minutes, until lightly browned at the edges but still quite pale. Transfer to a rack to cool.

Yield: about 3 dozen cookies

Note: If you don’t have a pastry bag, you can fashion a “shooter” by cutting the corner off a sturdy plastic bag and forcing the dough through the hole.

Tip: Save the egg white to make Almond Drops (recipe follows)

Almond Drops

No added fat or flour.

1 cup almonds
2 egg whites
¼ cup honey
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon almond extract
About 1 teaspoon nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350o F.

Grind almonds to a meal in a blender. Mix with egg whites, honey and extracts to make a smooth paste.

Drop by teaspoons onto an oiled, floured baking sheet. Sprinkle surface with nutmeg.

Bake for 6 to 8 minutes, until firm but still rather pale. Loosen from the baking sheet, and when firm enough to move, transfer to a rack to cool.

Yield: about 3 dozen 1-inch cookies

Ginger Cookies

Crunchy and spicy.

½ cup molasses
1 tablespoon oil
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon hot water
1½ teaspoons ginger
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1¾ cup whole wheat flour

Preheat oven to 350o F.

Combine molasses, oil, baking soda dissolved in hot water, ginger, and cinnamon. Add enough flour to make a dough firm enough to roll. Use hands if necessary to work in.

Roll thinly on a floured surface. Cut into shapes with a cookie cutter.

Bake on a greased baking sheet for about 10 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool.

Yield: about 2 dozen cookies

Chocolate Nut Squares

A delicate chocolate cookie, much like a thin brownie.

1 ounce (1 square) unsweetened baking chocolate
¼ cup butter
½ cup honey
1 egg
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons whole wheat flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup finely chopped walnuts or hazelnuts

Preheat oven to 400o F.

Combine chocolate and butter in a small saucepan and melt over very low heat. Remove from heat and beat in honey, egg, vanilla, flour, and salt.

Spread batter thinly into two greased 8-inch-square pans. Sprinkle evenly with nuts.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Do not over bake. Cool a minute in the pan then cut into 2-inch squares. When completely cool, remove from pan.

Yield: 32 2-inch squares


A popular miniature filled pastry that hails from Eastern Europe.

For the Pastry

1½ cups whole wheat flour
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ cup butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup honey
½ cup cottage cheese

Fruit-Nut Filling

1/3 cup chopped walnuts
½ cup chopped raisins
2 tablespoons toasted wheat germ
¾ teaspoon cinnamon

Combine flour, salt and baking powder. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or wire whisk. If you find it easier, work in butter with your fingers.

Stir honey and cottage cheese into flour mixture. Knead gentle with your hands until dough holds together in a ball. If too dry, add more cottage cheese. Cover with plastic wrap or place in a plastic bag and chill for a few hours.

Preheat oven to 400o F.

Divide dough into thirds, shape into balls and roll each ball from the center out into a thin 9-inch round. Cut each round into 8 wedges and if not very thin, roll each wedge in all directions to make broad triangles.

Combine filling ingredients. Sprinkle some on each triangle and roll from broad end to tip to enclose filling. Bend slightly to form a crescent.

Place rugelach on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Transfer to a rack to cool.

Yield: 24 rugelach


If you think you don’t like fruitcake, try this one – it is sure to change your mind, for it is chock full of real dried fruit instead of the bizarrely colored glacéed bits used in most fruit cakes. This cake stores very well, making it ideal for gift giving or mailing at holiday time. Warp in foil to retain moistness. For baking options, be sure to read the notes below.

1 cup pitted dates, cut up
1¼ cups diced dried apples
1 cup dried apricot halves, cut in quarters
1 cup walnut halves
¾ cup whole wheat flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
3 eggs
¼ cup honey
½ cup molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 300o F.

Combine dried fruit and nuts in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Add flour mixture to dried fruit and stir well.

Beat eggs. Beat in honey, molasses and vanilla. Add to fruit mixture and stir gently until all ingredients are well moistened.

Spoon into a well-greased 6-cup tube ring or mold (or see baking options, below). Bake for 1 hour. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack and cool completely.

Yield: 1 large ring

Note: Fruitcake can be baked in a variety of pans, ranging from small muffin tins (baking time will be about 30 minutes) to an 8-inch loaf pan or square. To determine if the cake is done, insert a toothpick; when it comes out clean, take the cake out of the oven.

Recipes from the Nikki & David Goldbeck’s American Wholefoods Cuisine ©