Surviving the Holidays: Therapeutic Baking & Cranberry Citrus Bread
The holidays are HERE, folks! It's true that store shelves are stocked with Christmas/Chanukah/Kwanzaa goodies the day after Halloween, but even so, the holidays still manage to sneak up and take us by surprise. Maybe it's those premature holiday displays that make us scoff and think we've got plenty of time. Or perhaps it's how fast paced work and school can be during the brisk fall months that makes the time fly by. Honestly I'm not sure how it happens, but I can tell you I feel like I blinked in October, and opened my eyes to find myself here with only a couple of days remaining to prepare for the holidays.
I'm always amazed at how emotionally charged this time of year can be. There's a lot of potential to experience those highs and lows. Yes, there are warm, glowing lights that stir feelings of magic within us. Sometimes we get to tap into a little childhood nostalgia, or maybe if we're lucky, we have an exceptional year from which new, happy memories are made. But expectations can also feel sky high. Time can feel limited, the weather can be unforgiving, and all of these factors can combine to exhaust and deplete us. You've been sold this idea that the holidays should be spent with the perfect family, spouse, house, decorations and gifts, holiday meals, and treats. Now that you've been running yourself ragged to make sure everything is just right, don't forget to be cheerful, well-rested, festively dressed, generous with your time, oh, and don't bring any extra winter weight with you to the party. It's the pressure to achieve perfection in pretty much every aspect of your life. All at once.
Oh. My. Clause.
I wish I could wave a magic wand to erase any expectations that you might have, whether it's self-imposed or forced upon you by others with unreasonably high expectations. But can you and I just agree to acknowledge how ridiculous and unrealistic these expectations are? Maybe we can find a little freedom in that. We can't be everywhere at once. We can't achieve perfection all of the time, and we shouldn't feel pressured to, either.
My best advice? Pour your energy into things that give back and conserve your energy with anything that doesn't. If you hate trimming the tree, leave it to someone else or perhaps don't bother with it at all. If there's a family member you feel is impossible to please, spare yourself from trying. Watching the needle on the weight scale is often futile, and it feels draining anytime of the year. But it's especially stressful around the holidays when goodies are in abundance and our eating patterns have deviated a bit from the norm. If you're stuck in weight watching mode, remember to ask yourself whether this practice gives back...whether it energizes you, or depletes you.
On the other hand, do you love to bake? Decorate? Sing? Dance? Socialize? Whatever you enjoy, focus on that to embrace and/or survive (depending on how you look at it) the holidays. Engaging in activities you enjoy that "give back" can be therapeutic.
The warmth of the oven, the scents wafting through the house, and the happiness sharing wholesome baked goodies seems to bring elicit those positive holiday feels for me, in addition to helping calm my nerves. So I'm sharing this Cranberry Citrus Bread recipe in the hopes that it can bring some joy to you and yours.
Made with tart organic cranberries, fresh squeezed orange juice, shaved orange rind & honey in addition to your usual suspects (flour, soy milk, etc) it's mostly sweet with a delightful tang. This bread is fantastic with or without the cream cheese icing. But if you're a froyo (frozen yogurt) lover like I am then I HIGHLY recommend you give this Tangy, Not-Too-Sweet Icing a try.
Cranberry Citrus Bread
Prep Time: 15-20 minutes
Bake Time: 55 minutes for bread; 20 minutes for muffins
Yield: 1 loaf of bread or ~12-15 muffins
2 cups white whole wheat flour 1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup honey 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder 1 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 3/4 cup orange juice (the juice of 2-3 oranges) 1 tablespoon grated orange peel 2 tablespoons avocado oil (or other heat-resistant oil) 1 egg, well beaten 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries, chopped 1/2 cup chopped nuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and grease your baking pan.
Next, combine dry ingredients with the exception of your cranberries and nuts in a large mixing bowl. That's your flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda.
Add orange juice, orange peel, avocado oil, egg, and honey to the bowl and stir until well combined. Add cranberries and nuts, folding batter until they are evenly distributed throughout.
Evenly spread batter into your loaf pan or muffin tin.
If making bread, bake for 55 minutes. Use the toothpick test to check if it's done (toothpick should come out clean).
If making muffins, bake for 20 minutes. Use the toothpick test to check if it's done (toothpick should come out clean).
Tangy Icing that's Sweet...But Not Too Sweet
1.75 ounces soft cream cheese (we used Melanie's Medleys Cream Cheese...it's our favorite!)
1 tablespoon avocado oil
1 tablespoon milk (we used organic soy milk)
1/2 cup powdered sugar
Whisk together the oil, milk, and cream cheese. Slowly add in powdered sugar and stir to combine. Once there are no clumps remaining, spread over cranberry bread and enjoy. Be sure to refrigerate the icing!