When I was growing up, Christmas morning always began with my dad’s cinnamon buns. The sweet, spiced smell from the oven would mix with the wood-smoke fragrance of the furnace, as the crispness of a winter morning in Maine turned cozy and warm. The buns would emerge, oozing and plump, and we would assemble ourselves quickly around the table with mouths ready to gobble them. I remember quickly uncoiling the sides of the buns, watching the steam rise and dance above the plate, gooey threads of cinnamon filling stretching and drooping, as the bun was unwrapped. Sticky fingers and sugar-drenched lips just seem to come with the territory during this season.

In recent years, as I’ve become more and more enamored with the wonderful flavors and textures of whole grains, I have begun seeking out recipes that trigger nostalgic childhood memories, but that pack more of a nutritional punch. One of the easiest ways to do this is to take well-loved family recipes and simply substitute half the refined white flour in the recipes with whole wheat or whole spelt flour. The result is a fuller, nuttier taste to the cakes or cookies you already love.

Using sprouted flour in your baking is another great way to take advantage of the nutrients available in whole grain flour. Sprouted flours tend to be full of flavor but mild and light in intensity, and you may even be able to substitute them 1:1 in existing refined-flour recipes. Several of our members sell sprouted grains and sprouted flours, including: Shiloh Farms, King Arthur Flour, and To Your Health Sprouted Flour. If you’re looking to experiment, I highly recommend To Your Health’s recipe for Lemon Lavender Cookies (included below), or if you’re pining for a soft, tender cinnamon bun for your holiday breakfast table, try King Arthur Flour’s Sprouted Wheat Sticky Buns.

Chocolate Teff Cake
Chocolate Teff Cake

Trying new flours and grains is a great way to expand your baking repertoire and enjoy a variety of new, and more healthful, treats. If you’re looking for inspiration, be sure to check out Alice Medrich’s Flavor Flours cookbook. It’s full of innovative recipes using teff, buckwheat, sorghum and oat flour along with nut flours like coconut and chestnut. Medrich has a talent for creating recipes that really capture and celebrate the character of each grain, using its texture, flavor, and color to its best advantage. Our website is also a great resource if you’re searching for new ways to use ancient grains. Try our Molasses Sorghum Cookies or Amaranth Banana Walnut Bread – they’re bound to become family favorites.

As my family has grown, our celebrations have been modified and improved upon, incorporating the traditions and dietary preferences of everyone sitting at the table — some of us are vegetarians, one avoids dairy, and two avoid gluten. Finding recipes that everyone can enjoy has led us to be more adventurous and creative and has resulted in some truly delicious, memorable gatherings. This year promises to be no different! In place of cinnamon buns, our plan for Christmas morning this week includes a chocolate teff cake made with teff flour, brown rice flour, almond meal, flax seed and cacao. You can find the recipe for this cake here.

Wherever you are and whatever whole grains you incorporate into your family feast, the Whole Grains Council wishes you a warm end to December and a very happy, healthy new year! (Caroline)


Sprouted Lemon Lavender Cookies (recipe by To Your Health Sprouted Flour Company)

Sprouted Lemon Lavender Cookies
Sprouted Lemon Lavender Cookies

1 ¾ cup sprouted brown rice flour

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

1 tablespoon lemon zest

2 teaspoons dried lavender flowers finely chopped

1 (4 ounces) stick butter (room temp)

1 cup organic sugar

2 large eggs

¾ teaspoon lemon juice



  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Cream butter and sugar together in a mixer with paddle attachment.
  3. Next add the eggs.
  4. Add the flour, baking powder, lemon zest, lemon juice and lavender flowers and mix until everything is incorporated.
  5. With a small scoop, form dough into balls and roll in homemade powder sugar.
  6. Place on a lightly-greased, parchment-lined cookie sheet, 1 inch apart.
  7. Bake for 10-12 minutes till set.
  8. Cool and enjoy!

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