Over the weekend, I received my first holiday favor. My client, who is an extremely talented baker, treated me to a box of her homemade Christmas cookies. And they were scrumptious. My family also takes part in Christmas cookie swaps, spending days in the kitchen, baking, swapping, wrapping and gifting traditional treats that only come once per year (I patiently wait for my grandmother’s fig jam cookies, which are heavenly). And while I wouldn’t recommend putting an end to any of these traditions, I do like the idea of branching out from cookies and maybe sharing some healthier holiday favors. This may be a great way to introduce those around you to the concept of real food or simply motivate them to get back to basics in the kitchen.
Spiced hot cocoa mix
Hot cocoa makes a great gift that can be enjoyed throughout the season. It’s soul-soothing and when it’s made with quality ingredients, it has the potential to do loads of good for the body, too. To motivate you to give this homemade recipe a try, take a look at the ingredient list of this popular hot cocoa mix:
SUGAR, CORN SYRUP SOLIDS, HYDROGENATED VEGETABLE OIL, MODIFIED MILK INGREDIENTS, COCOA, CELLULOSE GUM, SALT, DI POTASSIUM PHOSPHATE, SILICON DIOXIDE, ARTIFICIAL FLAVOUR, MONO- AND DIGLYCERIDES, GUAR GUM, SODIUM ALUMINUM SILICATE.
Not so soul-southing anymore.
So what’s the key to a healthier beverage? First, you need to get your hands on some high quality, raw cacao. Unlike the dutch-processed cocoa that comes in most mixes, raw cacao maintains all of its nutritional integrity not to mention an intense chocolate flavor. Added sugars are inevitable in any hot cocoa recipe, so in order to get away with a not-too-sweet beverage, the addition of freshly ground spices makes this mix fragrant and lends just enough sweetness.
Spiced hot cocoa mix
Makes: 1 1/2 cups
1 cup raw cacao powder
6 tablespoons organic cane sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder
Whisk all ingredients thoroughly. Store in glass jar in a cool, dry area and keep tightly sealed. Keeps for 6 months.
For every 1 cup (8oz) milk of choice:
Add 3 tablespoons cocoa mix
Add 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
In a small saucepan over medium heat, add milk, cocoa mix and vanilla extract. Whisk constantly until just a simmer. Serve with a cinnamon stick and enjoy on snowy afternoons or after brisk winter walks. Oh and careful, it’s hot!
Homemade Nut Butter
Talk about simple. Nut butter comes together in about 15 minutes, with only a few ingredients and minimal effort. For those in your life who haven’t yet made the switch to 100% natural nut butters, this holiday favor is a great ice breaker.
This walnut butter has a rich texture and a hint of maple syrup for sweetness. And if you want to experiment with more nut butter recipes and flavor combinations, Angela from Oh She Glows has some great ones including this homemade nutella I’m dying to try.
Maple-cinnamon walnut butter
Makes 3/4 cup
2 cups shelled walnuts
1/2 teaspoon coconut oil, melted
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1. Place the walnuts in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Process until smooth, which takes about 11 minutes, scraping down the sides with a spatula every now and then.
2. Add the coconut oil, maple syrup, cinnamon and salt and process for another 4-5 minutes until very smooth. Enjoy!
Spread this heart-healthy walnut butter over whole grain toast or enjoy as a snack with apple or pear wedges.
Give the gift of fibre this holiday season with this cherry & chia granola. Your loved ones will thank you. ‘Nuff said.
This granola makes for an energy-boosting snack on its own, sprinkled on yogurt or as dessert over roasted fruit for a makeshift, healthy cobbler.
They’re all the rage in specialty food shops. While flavored salt isn’t a health food, it is a gift that encourages home cooking. These salts are infused with the flavors of your choice and can really pack a punch, requiring only a sprinkle, to bring a meal home. Jaden from Steamy Kitchen has this great post on making your own flavored salts here.
5. Raw truffles
I love surprising friends and family with these raw almond and date truffles which make great hostess gifts during the holiday season. Switch-up the presentation by rolling some truffles in coconut, crushed almonds or cacao.
Do you participate in any holiday swaps? What’s your favorite holiday favor? Will you pledge to enjoy natural nut butters in 2013?