12 Healthy Cookies, Treats and Giftables

It’s that time of year.  Lots of lists, lots of tasks, and hopefully a good dose of merriment to go with those lists and tasks.  I don’t know if it’s a sign of my age, but I’ve found that an increasing number of people on my gift giving list don’t really seem to want or need a present from me. They want my presence (which is flattering), and I’ve found over the last few years that if my presence is accompanied by something to eat, the greeting I receive is all the warmer.  In looking back through our posts, I see we have quite a collection of treats that are great to share with friends and family and that still provide some nutrition during this season of culinary madness (check out this post for some healthy holiday tips).

And so a bit of a roundup for those of you who are preparing to get baking, who need some ideas for gift giving, or who are invited to all manner of holiday celebrations at which you do NOT wish to arrive empty handed.  Healthier treats galore!

Perfectly Packable Gifty Treats

1. No Bake Brownie Balls (GF,DF)- dark chocolate taste, low sugar joy, great gift for a dark chocolate loving adult

2.  Healthy Pumpkin Cookies (GF,DF) - sweet enough to feel like a treat, healthy enough to do the bod some good

3. Sweet Potato Cookies with Walnuts and Dark Chocolate Chips  (GF,DF) - fantastically delish healthy cookies

4.Crancherry, Almond, & White Chocolate Cookies  (GF,DF) – slightly sweeter than many of our other cookies – a great starter cookie for a lifetime of healthier treats

5. Intensely Good Banana Bread Mini-Loaves (DF) – not your grandmother’s banana bread (which I’m sure is divine), this puppy packs some molasses for a spicy edge and an iron boost.  Lovely gifted in mini loaf pans (because WHO doesn’t want mini bakeware?!)

6. Healthier Holiday Fudge (GF,DF) – Oh yes, it’s that good. Nobody will call you a health whack for this one…

7. 2 Ingredient Caramel Fudge (GF,DF) - WHAT DID SHE SAY?!  Yes, 2 ingredients.

8. Roasted Chili Lime Nuts (GF,DF) – I’ve heard tell there are folks who prefer savory snacks.  Ok, I admit it, I’m even related to a couple.  A tin of these babies will knock their unsweet socks off.

9. Nut Butter Bliss Balls (GF,DF) – Pleasing normal treat eaters everywhere… or at least in parts of Tennessee and Maryland

If You’re To “Bring Dessert”

10. Cranberry Apple Pecan Crumble (GF,DF) – Easy for you, delish for everyone.

11. Cocoanutty Good Bars (GF,DF) – No it’s not your imagination, I served these bars as cake and it was a huge success.  Drooling a little, and I guess you didn’t need to know that.

12. Pumpkin Pudding (GF,DF) – Bigg Sis wondered what would happen if you stopped worrying so much about the pie crust… and it was good.

Well, there it is.  Now you have a pretty good idea what’s going to be going on at my house for the next few weeks.  Here’s hoping your house is full of delicious and healthful food and wonderful people.

Nut Butter Bliss Balls

Ooooh boy these are some good little cookie like thangs!  There is no baking involved and lots of goo on the fingers to lick off when you are done.  What could be better than that?

Did you think I wasn’t going to tell you what was better than that?  Well!…. These lovely little sweets were consumed, enjoyed and complimented by folks from all ranges of the baked goods and sugar consumption spectrum.  In other words, as my son would say, both the health whacks like his dear old Mom and the normal people liked these cookies.  This is not always the case with the sweets that come out of my kitchen.  In fact, both of my sweet offerings were appreciated.  One of them, Healthy Pumpkin Cookies, was shared earlier in the blog and now, because I am so nice and generous and love to toot my own stolen horn, I will share the Nut Butter Bliss Balls recipe with you!  I hope these recipes (along with the list of healthier holiday foods from our blog that Little Sis is working on) will help you party with folks from all over the spectrum this holiday season.  ‘Tis the time of year for sharing, right?

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So back to tooting my own stolen horn…. I didn’t steal a horn, I adapted a horn, er…  recipe, from the wonderful Diana Herrington at Real Food for Life.  She calls them Peanut Butter Bliss Balls.   Mr. Bigg Sis doesn’t do peanuts, so I made them both with almond butter and the original way because my son and I LOVE peanut butter.   They are heavenly either way.

Nut Butter Bliss Balls
1 cup toasted sunflower seeds
1 cup nut butter (I have tried almond and peanut – you can cheaply make your own almond butter – with or without chocolate!)
1/2 cup honey (original is 3/4 cup – I found 1/2 to be awesomely sweet but chickened out and added another Tbsp tothe1/2 cup for my guests batch)
1/4 cup coconut (unsweetened, flaked)
1/4 – 1/2 cup almond flour (original coconut flour which is costly) but you could also use oat flour
1/4 cup oats
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds

First off – if you don’t have toasted nuts and seeds, I toasted the sunflower seeds at 350 for about 8 minutes – just keep an eye on them so they don’t burn, and the sesame seeds for about 5 minutes, again, watch them as ovens are different, pans are different, it’s a beautiful variable world!

Secondly – the reason for the wishy-washiness of the flour amount.  Peanut butter and almond butter (beautiful variable world consideration again) have varying consistencies, and honey is hard to measure accurately, so the stickiness of your final product is affected by these variables.  I use almond flour which is the dried out leftovers from making almond milk, so it may be a bit lighter than store bought almond flour.  Basically you want a dough consistency that is sticky enough to hold together and pick up a coating of sesame seeds but not too sticky to eat.  Start with the lowest amount of flour and add more until you like the consistency.  Taste tests are totally appropriate and recommended.

After you’ve toasted the sunflower seeds, place them in a bowl with all of the other ingredients except the sesame seeds and smush it all together, preferably with a purple spatula ;-)

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Pour your toasted sesame seeds onto a plate, form edible size balls (this of course will be affected by the wonderful variety of mouth sizes…. I make mine large) and roll them in the sesame seeds.  For more variety you can roll them in unsweetened coconut.

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I am singing a happy song of variety….. and one must try all of the varieties to be equitable (after eating your pre-emptive veggies of course!)

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Breathe, enjoy the season, and as Little Sis says when I worry over pleasing guests that are coming…. “It’ll be fine.  They’re your friends!  They love you.”

Peace and love to you and yours in this world of infinite variety and possibility.

Happier Healthier Holidays

The holiday season is upon us, with all the joy, merriment, gatherings, and well, lots of other stuff that comes with it.  I imagine that there are people who remain stress free in the face of all of the everything, but I will readily confess that I am not one of them.  While I love seeing the people I care about, I am not really one for crowds, big gatherings.  It’s fun to be with everyone, in the same place, but after a few hours my little introverted soul comes a little unglued.

BSHolidayIn the past, one of my strategies for managing my little introverted soul in the face of big bruhahas, or bruHoHoHos in this case, was to slip away from the larger group for a few minutes into a quieter space and take a few really deep breaths; sounds pretty zen, right?  What I didn’t mention is that those few deep breaths are typically between ginormous scoops from whatever nibble tray I can find lying about (usually shortly before or after a huge meal that will include a variety of desserts).  THIS is not celebratory eating, folks, this is NOT food as nourishment or tradition.  THIS is food as a crutch.

I can’t speak for anybody else, but my own personal holiday food crutch has, in years past, rewarded me with fluctuations in body weight, that oogie too full (“why did DO that”) feeling, and general lethargy that extends well into late winter (or until all the cookies are gone).  While again, I can’t speak for everybody, I am secure in the notion that I am not the only one who gets a little mixed up about food during the winter holiday cavalcade and so I thought I’d share some suggestions for how to enjoy a healthier holiday season.

1) Remember That Each Meal Is A Decision - One of the things we’ve worked to focus on in our Baby Steps to Better Health series is that each time we eat, every meal, we are making a choice about what we put in our bodies.  It is our decision, every single time.  This choice can become more complicated during the holidays, particularly if you are traveling and playing guest more often than you are playing host, but the reality is that you are still in charge of what you eat.

When it comes to healthy eating, one Bad Apple Doesn’t Always Spoil the Barrel.  So you went to Aunt Carol’s and ate stuff you wouldn’t even have considered putting in your mouth yesterday.  So you had 13 cookies.  So what.  This is not a test of your character.  It’s a decision.  Come next meal time, make a different decision and you will (and probably your stomach will also) feel better.

2) Get The Good Stuff In – Be sure to give yourself opportunities to eat healthful foods.  While you may be indulging in all manner of traditional and favorite foods that aren’t necessarily great for you, this doesn’t mean you can’t make sure you eat some broccoli.  If you are staying with family or friends, offer to do some of the cooking so you can ensure that you are able to prepare and share healthful food that will make you feel well.  A body that is well-nourished will crave less of the foods that are most likely to trip you up.  Some tried and true strategies that fall into the get the good stuff in category:

  • Eat before you go - If you aren’t sure what kind of fare will be served at a gathering OR if you know what it will be an it is something you have been trying to cut back on, eat before you go.  Our first holiday party of the season was hosted by folks we’ve just started to get to know, rather than asking too many questions about food OR puttting myself in the position of being starving and not feeling great about my options, we chose to eat dinner before we left.  The food we ate at the party became a treat – bites of things that looked really great and that we didn’t want to miss.
  • Bring something you want to eat - If you feel it would be acceptable to your host, bring some food to contribute to the event.  I often grab some dip and veggies (i.e. sunflower cheeseartichoke dip, baba ghanoush, baja hummus) as that way I can be sure there will be lots of veggies and something I REALLY enjoy that is also good for me.
  • Load the plate with veggies first - If you are filling your own plate, stack the odds in your favor by helping yourself to the most healthful dishes first – load those veggies on and don’t leave as much room for the things that you can’t resist but probably should.
  • Eat ONE – If there’s a food that IS the holidays to you, eat one.  Eat some.  Have it.  Just make sure you don’t ONLY have that if it is something that isn’t particularly healthful.

3) Change Your Focus - While there’s no question that it can be delightful to prepare, serve, share and enjoy holiday foods, there are so many other aspects of these gathering that I know could benefit from my own attention.  I’ve tried to choose a few folks that I don’t see as often and really try to spend some quality time talking with them, connecting with them, finding fulfillment in other people instead of craving fulfillment in a second piece of pie.  Food is wonderful – you know I love it and I spend SO much time talking about it, but when it comes down to it, I’d rather spend my holiday sitting next to and talking to my sister in person than eating pie, really, I’m serious.