Sweet, Sugarless Holiday Desserts

December 17, 2013 Updated: December 16, 2013

The snow has finally arrived, and the holiday season is in full swing! With Christmas and New Year’s in just one and two weeks, it is hard not to give in to the temptation of yummy holiday desserts.

If you are resolved not to add extra holiday calories, but not to sacrifice sweets, here are three healthy desserts from macrobiotic cooking that you can incorporate into your holiday parties without feeling any guilt.

Christmas Marzipan

This delightful, fructose-free Christmas marzipan can be colored for the season.

• 1 cup whole almonds
• 3 tablespoons rice syrup
• 1 to 2 drops almond extract
• Filtered water
• Small paper cups


1. First, boil the almonds in water for 2 to 3 minutes.
2. Drain the hot water and rinse the almonds in cold water.
3. Remove the skins by gently squeezing the almonds.
4. Add 3 tablespoons of rice syrup and 1 to 2 drops of almond extract to the blanched almonds.
5. Blend the mixture in a food processor a little at a time until it forms a smooth paste.
6. Form the paste into tiny shapes and place the bite-size marzipan on a tray or in small paper cups.
7. Set aside to dry completely.

To add festive color to your marzipan treats, you can put a few drops of fresh beet juice for the pink color and a bit of green tea powder for a light-green marzipan. Finely grate the beetroot and use a tight-meshed strainer to squeeze out the juice.

Blueberry-Beetroot Couscous Cake

Next is my all-time favorite—blueberry-beetroot couscous cake. This is a no-flour, no-egg, and no-sugar cake. And you do not have to bake it! This simple dessert is so easy that I make it almost every weekend in summer when berries are plentiful. My friends and health-conscious husband, who has a penchant for sweets, love this cake.

The preparation time for this cake is 15 to 20 minutes and cooking time is about 20 minutes. The cake is made with fresh blueberries, apple juice, and couscous. It is fat-free and contains only natural fruit juice. Use only 100 percent apple juice, and check the ingredients list to make sure there is no added fructose.

• 6 to 8 cups apple juice
• 3 cups couscous (fine)
• 2 cups or 1 pint blueberries
• 1/2 a small beetroot
• 1 teaspoon agar flakes or powder
• 2 to 3 pinches sea salt

You will need two large pots, a grater, and a 9×14-inch clear cake pan.


1. Pick over the blueberries, discard any bad ones, and rinse thoroughly.
2. Finely grate the half beetroot.
3. Place 3 cups of apple juice, half a teaspoon of agar powder, and a pinch of sea salt in one pot. Bring to a boil and lower the flame.
4. Add half of the couscous and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring continuously and adding more apple juice to prevent the couscous from sticking.
5. Fold the blueberries into the hot mixture. Save a few blueberries for decoration on the top of the cake. Add more juice to prevent the couscous from sticking to the pot.
6. Remove from heat.
7. Pour another 3 cups of apple juice into the second pot. Add a pinch of sea salt, half a teaspoon of agar powder, and the grated beetroot. Bring to a boil and lower the flame.
8. Then add the rest of the couscous and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring continuously and adding more apple juice to prevent the couscous from sticking.
9. Remove from heat.
10. Pour the beetroot couscous into the cake pan. Press the mixture into the pan until the surface is even.
11. Then pour the blueberry couscous on top, and gently press it down. Decorate the top of the cake with the remaining blueberries.
12. Chill until set. Then cut into slices and serve.

The above recipe yields about 20 servings. You can reduce it to a two-thirds portion by using of 4 to 6 cups of apple juice, 2 cups of couscous, and about 1 cup of blueberries. Adding more apple juice makes the cake moister and gives it a softer texture.

You can substitute the blueberries with other berries in season. Try with strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, even apples, and other fruits.

To augment the holiday spirit, consider making a three-layered couscous cake. The top layer can be blueberries or strawberries. For the second layer, spread a mixture of green tea powder and a couple of tablespoons of rice syrup, and use the grated beetroot for the bottom layer.

Agar is a thickener made from seaweed. You can buy it at most natural foods stores, Asian stores, or online.

Steamed Apples

Your third healthy holiday dessert this season can be steamed apples. This recipe is good for people with clogged arteries, heart disease, and those who wish to eat less dairy or don’t tolerate it well.

• 3–4 medium apples (or more, depending on the number of servings you wish to make)
• Sunflower seeds
• Raisins
• Barley malt
• Almond butter


1. Wash and core the apples but do not peel.
2. Mix sunflower seeds, raisins, some barley malt, and almond butter together. Then stuff them inside the apples.
3. Steam the apples in a stovetop steamer until skin of the apples break.
4. Sprinkle with a dash of ground cinnamon and serve hot or warm.

Dr. Margaret Trey has a doctorate in counseling from the University of South Australia. She was trained in oriental medicine, shiatsu, and macrobiotics, and was the director of Spirit Shiatsu in Australia for over 10 years. Now based in New York, she writes and continues her research on the effects of meditation on health and wellness.