December 08, 2011

Sugar-free Christmas Baking: Spiced sweet potato tarts

The recent happenings (moving house, work, etc.) have made me realise why some people might find it so hard to stay on track with their healthy eating and exercise. As soon as life gets busy - you're travelling, working long hours or there is something new happening in your life, you start taking short-cuts and sacrifice your healthy routines. Often people find it easier to stick to their healthy habits when they have time to really focus on making conscious choices of what and how to eat, exercise and get enough sleep. As soon as other things get on the way, they lapse and might find it hard to get back on track.
I think the only thing that can keep you always on track is that those healthy habits are so established in your life that they are part of your lifestyle and thus you make the right choices subconsciously.  I'm often told how healthy I am or how 'good' I am because I exercise daily, but for me it's just my lifestyle, the way I've chosen to live. I don't have to think about it, healthy eating and exercise are part of my everyday life. When I started the sugar-free challenge it took me about two weeks to break the habit of having sugar in my diet. I actually had to concentrate on not grabbing a fruit to eat as a snack or adding honey in my tea. After the first two weeks, however, I had established the new eating habits and didn't have to make a conscious effort to exclude sugar from my diet.

Another way to stick to your diet is to stay organised and plan ahead as much as possible. When we were moving house, I knew I wouldn't have time to cook, so I prepared us meals beforehand, and had sugar-free snacks and plenty of water at hand. I do this even when we are travelling or when I know I have a long working day ahead. I always pack lunch and snacks and lots of water with me, so I don't have to sacrifice anything even during the busiest of times.

This Christmas, I am planning to stay sugar- and dairy-free. I don't see why I should change anything now that I've established this diet as part of my lifestyle. There are plenty of options available, so I don't feel like I am missing out on anything. These spiced sweet potato tarts are definitely going to be part of my holiday repertoire. I've used my favourite grain-free crust and topped it with spiced sweet potato purée. The warm spices and the coconut oil combined with the sweet potato make these tarts perfect for your Christmas dessert table.

Spiced sweet potato tarts
(makes 10-12)


200g almond meal
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of sea salt
1 large egg (organic, free-range)
2 tablespoons good olive oil


400g cooked sweet potato (about 1 medium sized)
2 tablespoons coconut milk or almond milk (my recipe here)
1 tablespoon virgin coconut oil
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground licorice
1/2 teaspoon ground clove
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground bitter orange peel powder, optional
pinch of sea salt

almond slices, toasted, to serve

1. To make the crust, combine all the ingredients in a bowl and lightly knead into a smooth dough. Divide the dough into 10-12 equal portions. Press each portion into the bottom and the sides of small cupcake molds. Leave to chill in the fridge for 10-20 minutes.

2. Preheat the oven to 180C.

3. Place all the ingredients for the filling in a food processor and purée into a smooth paste. Set aside.

4. Bake the crusts in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and fill each cup with a portion of the sweet potato filling.

5. Lower the temperature to 150C and continue to bake the tarts for a further 10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack before sprinkling with toasted almond slices.