Fun Holiday Baking Recipes: Holiday Baking Guide, Ideas and Tips

7 minute read • by HighKey Team 11-06-2020


Fun Holiday Baking Recipes

Lindsay Malone MS, RDN, CSO, LD

Holiday Baking Guide, Ideas and Tips

'Tis the season to get out ahead of all the usual holiday-related stress. While the leaves are still turning, it won’t be long until Turkeys and gingerbread houses are on the mind. Consider a few of the following tips to make this year’s holiday baking season more enjoyable and convenient for everyone involved.

  • Fail to prep, prep to fail. Getting out ahead of the holiday crunch is the best way to guarantee a fun ride. Consider planning your holiday baking menu now and getting all of the pantry items before they increase in price or run out. Ordering online usually saves time and money, and you have plenty of time to afford any shipping delays that might ensue closer to the big holidays. This list might include hard to source items like gourmet cinnamon sticks, peppermint extract, pumpkin pie spice, alternative flours, or even necessary supplies like parchment paper, canned goods, and recyclable serving dishes. 
  • Be the hostess with the mostess - With allergies on the rise, part of conscious hosting these days might include having a shortlist of significant allergens used in any delicious dishes being served. These might consist of shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, gluten, eggs, dairy, or soy. This way, everyone can enjoy your generosity to the fullest. A final note on guests… it’s generous to host. It’s even more generous to be inclusive about the unique needs and dietary limitations of those in attendance. Food is a sensitive subject. Many are looking to lose weight, and the holidays have always been a good excuse for self-sabotage. It’s never a good time to push a personal agenda through food conversations, but there’s a fine line between doing that and respecting the choices of others that have been made clear ahead of time. 
  • Social distancing? Consider donations in place of sending fruitcake to Aunt Betty. For those on special diets, or those not making the trip to Grandma’s this year, a charitable donation to a local food bank in their name might be more meaningful than a stack of cookies shipped via the post. Especially for those looking to cut back on their sugar intake ;) 
  • Can’t beet that root warmth… Get Vegetable friendly! Beets, parsnips, carrots, squash, pumpkin, and rhubarb make delicious sweet desserts when baked, as well as everyone’s favorite sweet potato. Roast and mash for a lower glycemic brownie or pie filling. Try mashed parsnips, which impart a moistness and savory depth unmatched by traditional baking flour. The gold star goes to roasted delicata squash, which makes a delicious mini pastry foundation. 
  • Make it personal! Bringing a dish shouldn’t be stressful. It’s never a bad idea to bring something that you like and that you can enjoy eating - even if it’s specialized to your keto or celiac restrictions. This takes the pressure off the host to provide a specialized menu, ensures you have something to eat and to give, and helps teach others that eating Gluten-Free, Keto, or Paleo - can be delicious and fun, too. If it’s not possible to bring something homemade, getting something you enjoy cooking with - like a specialty spice, a holiday java roast, or gourmet cocoa powder - is a thoughtful alternative. 
  • Protein power - Boost the protein power of any dessert with a scoop of protein or collagen powder. If extra thickness is required for a pudding or a filling, try adding grass-fed beef gelatin for added thickness, moisture, and healthy protein in place of flour. Collagen and gelatin are both tasteless, while gelatin also adds strong, thickening power. Both are nutrient powerhouses for bones and joints. Protein powder is available flavored or unflavored to complement any holiday baking recipe. Try using vanilla protein powder as you might vanilla extract - vanilla often helps round out the taste of baked goods and can be used in place of 1-2 tbsp of standard flour. Keep an eye on the clock, as varying levels of doneness may ensue. 
  • Employ the power of flax. Not only is ground flax meal a great vegan egg substitute, but flax also adds flavor, depth, and crunch to any recipe - sweet or savory. It also adds a powerful nutrient boost of fiber, lignans, omega 3’s, and anti-inflammatory compounds. Flax is a superfood and makes every dish more delicious. 
  • Good Enough for Baby… Canned yams out of stock? Check the baby food aisle. Baby food makes a surprisingly significant and effortless contribution to the baking pantry in a pinch. Applesauce, pumpkin puree, yam, squash puree, and even carrot are great to have on hand when other supplies run low. Use any of the above in place of oil to make a lower fat brownie or pie filling, or simply cut your prep time in half by using prepared baby food puree in place of peeling, roasting, and pureeing butternut squash. Superstar tip - Squash works as well, if not better than apple in brownie recipes. Squash takes the flavor profile of chocolate a lot better than many other fruit or vegetable replacements. 

Pumpkin pudding 

Pumpkin is one of every holiday season’s favorite flavors. It’s an incredibly versatile gourd, with use in sweet and savory dishes. Consider making a super healthy, gluten-free, and low-sugar pumpkin pie filling that can be enjoyed a la carte as a pudding or piped into a low-carb, pre-baked pie crust and chilled. Yields two servings.


  • 1.5 cups of water or unsweetened almond milk. 
  • 8 ounces of canned pumpkin. 
  • 2 scoops vanilla whey protein powder. 
  • 2 scoops grass-fed gelatin. 
  • 1 heap of cinnamon. 
  • 1/2 tsp Himalayan sea salt. 
  • 2 tbsp ground flaxseed meal. 
  • 1/2-1 tsp pure stevia powder. 
  • Optional: 2/3 cup chopped parsnip or squash. 
  • 2/3 cup chopped carrot or squash. 
  • 1/2 tsp coconut oil 


    1. Combine liquid with pumpkin, cinnamon, stevia, salt, flax, and protein powder. 
    2. Using a whisk, very slowly add gelatin while whisking mix to avoid clumps. Use enough gelatin until the desired thickness presents. 
    3. Refrigerate pudding until firm (10-15 minutes or longer). 
    4. Separately, combine root vegetables and roast until cooked through. 
    5. Coat in coconut oil, cinnamon, and salt and allow it to cool.
    6. Combine pudding with root vegetables and top with stevia, cinnamon, and salt. Using salt is essential to enjoy the taste of stevia.
    7. Enjoy a la carte, or pipe into a pie crust and chill until ready to serve.

    Peppermint Brownies (or brownie batter!) 

    Who doesn’t love chocolate and peppermint? Try this gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free brownie recipe for a fun holiday recipe. Using butternut squash (or sweet potato) and nut butter, this deliciously moist dish will quickly become a family favorite. 


    • 1 cup roasted and mashed butternut squash 
    • 3/4 cup almond or peanut butter 
    • 1/4 cup maple syrup. You can also substitute 1/4 cup liquid keto-friendly sweetener + 2 tbsp erythritol or 1/2 tbsp stevia 
    • 1/3 cup almond flour 
    • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder 
    • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract 
    • 1/2 tsp peppermint extract 
    • 1/2 tsp sea salt 
    • Optional: 1/2 cup Lily’s mini dark chocolate chips 
    • 1/2 cup smashed candy canes 


      1. Combine all ingredients, except 1/4 chocolate chips and candy cane, and bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes until done. 
      2. Sprinkle remaining chips and peppermint flakes on top before removing from the oven to cool.
      3.  For an even quicker, no-bake batter, sub squash for sweet potato, omit the almond flour, omit half the almond butter and sweeten to taste with stevia and erythritol. 
      4. Add a scoop of vanilla protein powder for added texture and protein.
      5. Stir everything together and lick the bowl clean. Yum! Finally, don’t forget to breathe!

      Final Thoughts

      The holidays are a time for joy, celebration and connection with loved ones. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the hustle and bustle. We don’t always need to reinvent the wheel to show those we love how much we care. Enjoy!


       Lindsay Malone, MS, RDN, CSO, LD

      Lindsay Malone is a Functional and Integrative Medicine dietitian empowering individuals to take charge of their health with evidenced-based nutrition information.

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