Nick gave up sugar with the final stroke of midnight on December 31. He did not do this in a “Let’s see how long I can last” kind of way but in a stubborn old, “Just not going to eat it anymore” kind of way. The kids were aghast. “You gave up sugar?! Forever?!” I could see their little brains whirling. Where is the joy in life without ice cream? Brownies? Cookies? What is even left after that?
He does occasionally gift himself a sweet treat: 85% dark chocolate is acceptable, and can usually be found in my baking supplies. And don’t talk to him about what is in an almond croissant. He doesn’t want to know. Other than those, and a creme brûlée at a poncy restaurant in Mayfair a few weeks ago (which, by the way, was the most amazing creme brûlée I’ve ever, ever had) he has stuck with his resolution.
Lucky for him his decision to give up sugar coincided with an intense period in our lives where I had no time to bake anyway: Going back to school to finish my diploma in wine, the creation of Creating for Good, a few pieces for Draper James and moving from a 5 bedroom house into a 2 bedroom flat for our entire 5-person family as made things hectic, which is the nicest word I use to describe life at the moment. All of the ooey gooey chocolate desserts that popped up in time for Valentine’s Day remained in my in-box, unattempted.
But just like I want Nick to be supportive of my various Instagram endeavours, antique store acquisitions of broken dishes and tarnished silverware and addiction to property websites and travel guides to Cuba and Vietnam, I want to be supportive of him. So I’ve added the challenge of coming up with a few sugar-free recipes to my arsenal.
The first was our new family “milkshake” which is a showstopper. I don’t have photos of it but here’s the skinny: Combine a cup of oat milk (we are also trying to cut down dairy), 4 pitted dates, a tablespoon of cacao powder and a small scoop of muesli and a scoop of ice in a high powered blender like a Vitamix. Blend for 30 seconds. Add a banana and then blend for another 30 seconds. Throw a straw in a tall glass and serve it to kids who will have no idea how healthy you are making them. Jessica Seinfeld: take THAT!
Next up was granola, a really simple way to support his endeavour because he was struggles with breakfast options after growing tired of eggs and smoked salmon. Granola is simple and rewarding to make on your own (and a great way to get kids to eat it is to let them concoct their own recipes) but the trade-off here is that if you eliminate standard sweeteners like maple sugar then you lose the crunchiness of the granola. Sugar free granola is lovely and toasty and nutty and moreish but crunchy it is not. I’ve read that you can use whipped egg whites to re-create the crunchiness but I haven’t tried that one yet. (What have I been doing? I know, I know.) However as an indication of how good this is (crunch-free or not) I left it out on the counter overnight because it was too dark to shoot it when I first made it and by the time I set up to shoot it the next day there was a very small amount left.
So not that I wouldn’t undertake much, much more to support Nick’s quest to be healthier and to make our family healthier, the bottom line is that this was a very easy way to do it. Combine all of the good stuff and then bake it for 20 minutes. That’s something I can handle even while my brain power is being used to pack and unpack boxes and study the differences between red Sancerre and red Burgundy.
- First: Make a date syrup sweetener.
- 10 pitted medjool dates (higher quality dates really will make a difference)
- 1 cup water (plus more to soak dates)
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Soak dates in warm water for an hour.. After an hour drain dates and add dates to a high powered blender with the 1 cup of water lemon juice and vanilla. Blend for 60 seconds and then set aside.
- 3 cups rolled oats
- 1/2 cup almonds, sliced, slivers or whole
- 1 cup dried apple, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- Pinch of nutmeg
- Pinch of allspice
- Optional: Handful dried apricots and dried cranberries
- Preheat oven to 350F / 176C.
- Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Toss a few times to distribute spaces and fruit. Add the date sweetener and toss a few more times.
- Spread out on a large sheet pan bake for 20 minutes, stirring after 10 minutes.
- Let it cool and then store in a glass container for up to two weeks.